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Full text of "On the offensive, an army story"



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THE UNIVERSITY OF 

NORTH CAROLINA 

LIBRARY 




THE WILMER COLLECTION 

OF CIVIL WAR NOVELS 

PRESENTED BY 

RICHARD H. WILMER, JR. 



•"^^lytcouigua, 



Digitized by tine Internet Arciiive 

in 2010 witii funding from 

University of Nortii Carolina at Chapel Hill 



http://www.archive.org/details/onoffensivearmysOOputn 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 



BY THE SAME AUTHOR. 



IN BLUE UNIFORM. 

An Army Novel. 1 2mo, . . $1.00 



ON THE OFFENSIVE. 

An Army Story. 12nno, . . $1.25 



On the Offensive 



AN ARMY STORY 



BY 

GEORGE I. PUTNAM 



NEW YORK 

CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS 

1894 



COPYRIGHT, 1894, BY 
CHARLES SCRIBNER's SONS 



TROW oinECTonv 

PRINTING AND BOOKBINDING COMPANY 
NEW YORK 



M. 



TO 

F. U. 






ON THE OFFENSIVE 



It was pay-day at the Fort. All labor but the 
necessary guard and police had been suspended 
by orders at retreat the night before. The men, 
in snug blue blouses and conspicuous white gloves, 
loitered idly about the whitewashed halls of bar- 
racks. One captain had ordered his company into 
full-dress uniform ; for pay-day, at those isolated 
western stations, was invested with dignity ; and 
the progress to the pay-table fell not short of a 
ceremony. At intervals a clear-voiced corporal 
would be heard across the parade, turning out a 
company ; and immediately after a thin blue col- 
umn would be marching away to surprise its lean 
pockets with the month's pay — $13 for the rank 
and file, $18 in the case of certain leathery old non- 
commissioned officers. They were eager, not ava- 
ricious — -at those terms ; duty done and reward 
within grasp — the consciousness of it was on every 
man's face. 

A week before some fifteen men had gone un- 
ostentatiously forth from the Fort, as though hop- 



2 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

ing to escape observation by that portion of the 
community that lived by preying upon the other. 
Last evening they had returned with the air of the 
campaign about them, escorting the paymaster, his 
clerk, his books, and his money-chest. It was their 
watchfulness that rendered pay-day a joyous prob- 
ability. And now the paymaster sat at the head 
of the long table on which piles of gold and silver 
coin Avere arranged methodically Avithin his reach. 
The slow machinery of the pay-table was in oper- 
ation. The captain of a company shouted the 
names of his men ; the paymaster's clerk repeated 
each, checked it off, and proclaimed the sum due ; 
the soldier marched sedately into the commercial 
presence and received the coin from the paymas- 
ter's hand, 'bout faced, and marched out again. A 
slow machine and ponderous, but it ran smoothly 
and accurately. Time was not of great moment in 
a place where no tAVO clocks agreed, and the sun 
governed each twenty -four hours' doings. 

As the paymaster and his escort, dust-enveloped, 
had trailed dimly through the godless frame-and- 
canvas town that lay but across the clear, rippling 
creek from the Fort, the signal had passed to every 
gambler, every adventurer of either sex, and they 
had gathered for the vigorous plying of their 
trades. Monthly pay-day Avas the bright event of 
their lives ; soldiers Avere golden - fleeced sheep, 
anxious to be shorn. Just Avithout the military 
reservation stood a saloon. The poAver of the com- 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 3 

manding officer was bounded by the Hue of the 
government survey ; but he had gone to the line 
and said, " Thus near thou mayest come, and no 
nearer," and there the saloon had established itself. 
From its side door a man with a strong arm might 
have smashed beer-bottles against the outer wall 
of the commanding officer's quarters. 

To-day, this saloon was a rallying point. The 
stock of liquors had been replenished ; gamblers in 
every degree sat at tables in the card- and billiard- 
rooms ; devices of all sorts were about the path of 
the adventurously inclined ; women in barbaric col- 
ors displayed themselves as it might be alluringly. 
The sawing and beating of musical instruments in 
fantastic measures troubled the mild, mid-fall air ; 
they were sounding the onslaught, the charge. 

It was pay-day at the Fort. Beneath a narrow 
awning, on either side the entrance to the paying- 
room, was placed a chair — forethought of devout 
soldiers. Here sat two Sisters, black of gown, 
meek of face, roughened and worn by the fierce- 
ness of the sun, the rigor of the wind, the many 
deep necessities of the outcast, law-defying men 
and women to whom in that weary land they min- 
istered. Downcast of eyes, silent of tongue, the 
small crucifixes suspended around their necks and 
scarcely moving on their gentle bosoms indicated 
their purpose, spoke for them — and this so elo- 
quently, that no soldier passed from the pay-table 
without dropping into their receptacle some coin. 



4 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

Only the scanty length of the parade stretched be- 
tween the pay-table and the saloon, but the sol- 
diers' first tribute was paid to God ! And some 
dropped a coin to the work of the Sisters for the 
sake of conscience ; and some for the sake of a 
sudden memory ; and some because good deeds ■ 
will not come amiss at the last day ; and some be- 
cause it was a virtuous thing to do and should 
bring them luck at the games within the half -hour. 
And thus the Sisters recruited their slender fund 
for charity. 

Pay-day always brought Father Brugan to the 
Fort. This keen Catholic priest, barely thirty, 
with his smoothly shaven face and his acquired air 
of fond paternalism, was fashioned like an athlete. 
This may have been one reason why he was so 
well liked by the ordinarily distrustful soldiery ; 
for men given to the exercise of the robust vir- 
tues are apt to exalt them above mental attain- 
ments. But it was not this alone. A fine pres- 
ence would not have warranted the respect and 
love they bore him. They obeyed him as promptly 
as they did Colonel Gerrish, and with a vastly dif- 
ferent feeling at heart; for the colonel claimed 
control only over their bodies, while the priest 
took moral issue with them and tinctured his com- 
mands with spiritual authority. And as ho did 
not confine himself to words alone, but worked 
with unwearied diligence for whomsoever had need 
of him, his words had weight. Not many men in 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 5 

barracks would listen to him and then deliberately 
run counter. And they believed in him because, 
with all his strength and manliness, he bore the 
hand of the Church consciously, and was ever 
mindful of his vows. 

He came from the little town, crossed the creek 
on the stepping-stones — it had been a dry summer 
and the water was low — and briskly climbed the 
bluff by the foot-path that circled the limestone 
outcroppings. He shot up inch by inch to the 
brown level of the parade ground, and came at a 
quick pace toward the officers' line. Lydia Ger- 
rish, on the porch, saw him and directed the col- 
onel's attention. 

" Here comes your co-laborer, papa." 

" Oh, the priest," he replied, after a quick glance, 
gladly. "Good-morning! " he shouted, cheerfully. 
" You are early on the field, and the enemy seems 
to have planned an elaborate campaign against us," 
shaking one strong hand toward the saloon, while 
he warmly welcomed the priest with the other. 

He returned the cordial greetings of father and 
daughter in a slightly embarrassed manner. " I 
believe we shall need all the time that is given us," 
he said, explaining his early appearance. He went 
on stiltedly : "I wished to ask the commanding 
officer's permission to speak with the men in their 
barracks." 

" Certainly, certainly," said the colonel, with 
bluflf, military heartiness. " You don't have to ask 



6 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

permission. You can go anywhere on this reser- 
vation without a permit." 

" You are very kind." The priest bowed. He 
lingered a moment in awkward leave-taking, and 
then hurried away to the first of the low stone 
barracks that were strung along the opposite side 
of the parade like beads on a chain. He passed 
from one to the other, speaking to the men he knew 
by name in a way that showed his familiarity with 
their weaknesses and his authority over them. 

" Now, Gavin," said he, " put away those cards." 
For Gavin had just installed himself as dealer in a 
faro game and was inviting the bets of his com- 
rades. " Put them away. You know it's against 
regulations." 

Gavin was loath to abandon his position. " 'Tis 
but a friendly game, y'r Riv'runce," he protested. 
" Just to pass the time. You wouldn't have us go 
to the gamblers, sir ? " 

"No, not that. If you must play, go out in 
some of the limestone caves. You will break no 
rules there." He bent to Gavin's ear and whis- 
pered a word as he Avent by. He had hardly gone 
from the room when Gavin arose and hurriedly 
followed him. 

" Y'r Riv'runce," he asked, " will you take me 
money an' keep it till I can get the letter to me 
mother writ' ? " 

" Now, that is better," said the priest, approv- 
ingly. "But I will not touch your money, Gavin. 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 7 

Go to your officer and ask bim. He is the one to 
keep it for you." 

Father Brugan hurried on. In one room he said : 

" Robinson, how much of your pay is coming to 
you this month ? " 

Robinson dropped his head and smiled weakly 
as he recognized the watchful care of the priest 
over him. " The whole of it, thanks to you, sir. 
It's the first month in a long time there hasn't been 
a fine against me." 

A little later^ on the parade, he intercepted a man 
heading toward the saloon. " Look here, Killeen," 
he said, decidedly, "your quarters are not that 
way. Take the paj" home to your wife ; she has a 
better right to it than those people." 

He made a circuit of the post, and returned to 
the colonel's porch with a look of concern on his 
face. " It is nip and tuck, Colonel," he said, with 
a grave smile. 

" With the chances in favor of nip," replied the 
colonel, jocosely. He liked to see people feel at 
home, and he thought to reassure the priest with 
the same manner of Avelcome that he would have 
deemed proper for any other visitor. " Nip has 
the first chance ; tuck wdll come later in the guard- 
house and the court-martial." He breathed out a 
little sigh for futile endeavor. " Well, it was al- 
ways the soldier way to go courting the enemy. 
Experience is thrown away on them ; Avhat they 
learn one pay-day they forget before the next. It's 



8 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

a good while now since I got over expecting a 
soldier to take any care of himself. One machine 
can't do everything, you know, and when yon get 
a good one to fight with you mustn't expect it to 
think, too. No ; that's too much for any enlisted 
machine that wears the blue." 

Miss Gerrish laughed. " There must always be 
a man to run the machine," she ventured. 

" That's it, daughter ! " the colonel assented, in 
a cheerful roar. " Somebody to give orders and 
see that they're obeyed." He turned suddenly to 
the priest. " You do about as much as any of us 
to keep things running well. You're a pretty fair 
soldier yourself ! " 

" Just think, if you were an ojflicer, what a brib 
liant career you'd have ! " gurgled Lydia. 

The priest would have evaded this turn of the con- 
versation. " May not these qualities have a good 
effect on my w^ork as it is ? " he asked, rather comba- 
tively. " There is much that is similar — organiza- 
tion, plans of campaign, discipline, work — all that." 

" And fighting," added the colonel, with pro- 
fessional relish. " You have a hard field here, I 
declare ! When I think of civilized communities 
and compare them with this, I think it would 
astound some people to know what you are doing." 

" I am very glad to serve where I can do the 
most work." 

" Then you must be well satisfied with this sta- 
tion ! " Miss Gerrish volunteered, Liughing shrilly. 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 9 

" Yes, I am," he said, quietly. " I would not 
wish to be transferred — not for a long time." 

Colonel Gerrish came in with the result of ob- 
servation. " Ah, it will be a long time before the 
church stands an equal chance with the saloon in 
this territory." He had passed his life in moving 
from one extreme point of the frontier to another, 
seeing constantly renewed the struggle between 
these two elements of modern social circumstance. 
The brothel and the bar would be in the ascendant 
at first and for a time ; but the other force insinuat- 
ed itself, grew, and gained strength, until at length 
equilibrium seemed about established. Then that 
point would no longer be frontier, there would be 
no further need for the military, and he would 
move on to the next station. 

"We are here in the cause of law and order," he 
rumbled deeply, " and that's the chm'ch, every 
time. "Not your church, nor any other one estab- 
lishment — but of the church. The army is a bar 
against disorder, and an entering wedge for what 
is right, and good, and high. Sometimes it seems 
to me— well, queer — that it should be so. Kind 
of illogical. For the army is a mainstay of the 
saloon in these frontier places, and yet it is sworn 
in the opposition. I can hardly reconcile it." 

" I can," said Lydia, quickly. "It is only this, 

' God moves in a mysterious way 
His wonders to i^erform.' 



10 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

The rest is not so applicable, so I won't repeat it. 
But that gives the idea I have of it." 

The colonel looked npon her pridefuUy. " Lydia 
always does have a bit of verse that hits it off," said 
he. " She reads a great deal. To tell the truth, 
there isn't much else for a woman to do at a milita- 
ry station, unless she gossips. And Lj^dia reads." 

" Her quotation is very applicable," said the 
priest, nodding approvingly. " It does look para- 
doxical, but where God is concerned we hardly 
need borrow trouble about seeming incongruities. 
And reading is pleasant, I am sure ; but is gossip 
so very unfortunate in a military station that you 
should set your face against it uncompromis- 
ingly ? " He had turned to L3^dia, 

" Papa has exaggerated some ; he always does 
when he is praising me. You would imagine I 
never spoke of my neighbors and took no interest 
in them, but that isn't so. Mamma and I — and 
papa, too !— do talk them over, and sometimes we 
scold them horribly to ourselves. But it never 
goes any farther," she concluded. 

" Then it isn't gossip," declared the colonel, 
putting the official stamp of the commanding offi- 
cer on it. 

" And telling one another little things that have 
been observed about garrison ; would that be gos- 
sip, now ? " asked the priest, making a desperate 
dash at light humor across his pervading serious- 
ness. 



OW THE OFFENSIVE 11 

Colonel Gerrish made no reply ; and his daugh- 
ter answered, compromisingly, " Well, one could 
hardly tell from that. It would depend." 

" I have a personal reason for asking," the 
priest continued. " I noticed a rather funny little 
incident this morning that I might tell — if it would 
not be gossiping." 

" Oh, tell it, please," Miss Gerrish pleaded, 
quickly. " I'm sure it wouldn't." And the colo- 
nel added, " Risk it by all means, risk it." They 
all laughed at the readiness with which the chance 
was accepted. 

" It was only this," he began. " By the door of 
the pay-room were two Sisters, soliciting alms. 
Two little boys saw that the men gave them 
money freely — just as soldiers always do. The 
boys evidently thought it a good chance to collect 
spending money, for they took their stand just 
within the door, hats in hand, where the soldiers 
would see them first. I think they got a nickle or 
two before their father discovered them and 
marched them away to some kind of punishment." 

They received the priest's little story good-nat- 
uredly. " The little monkeys ! " gasped the colo- 
nel, chuckling at the mental picture it conjured up. 

" That is it precisely," said the priest. *' Imita- 
tive as monkeys. They intended nothing wrong. 
I had to laugh when I saw them, but the father 
was stern enough to make up for it." 

" It would be just like Mr. Lawrence's boys to 



12 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

do that," said Lydia, out of her experience. 
" They are the liveliest children — going every- 
where, into everything. And they are so imita- 
tive ! They noticed that the dogs are always dis- 
turbed by the bugles and howl in anguish at the 
sound. So, what did tlie boys do yesterday morn- 
ing at guard-mount, but go down on hands and 
knees in front of the lino of soldiers when the 
bugles sounded, and stick their noses up in the air 
and howl as much like dogs as they could ! The 
soldiers laughed and the ceremony nearly failed." 

The priest was pleased. " They are versatile 
indeed when their talent for imitation goes out- 
side humankind and takes in the dogs. You Avere 
right ; these were Mr. Lawrence's boys. You can 
expect something unusual from them when they are 
grown." 

" Huh ! " coughed the colonel. " We don't have 
to wait for that. They keej) the garrison from 
going to sleep now, I tell you ! It is the unusual 
we always expect from them." 

Several of the younger officers going by at that 
moment, the colonel discovered among them the 
father of the boys, and called for the entire party 
to come up. " Hello, Lawrence ! Come up ! I 
want to ask you a point. Come up, Ealph ! Spur- 
bridge!" 

They filed up readily, shook hands with the 
priest, bowed to Miss Gerrish as to the daughter 
of their commanding officer, and leaned about the 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 13 

porch against the post and railings. Ralph wore 
a sword, that clanked against everything, and was 
sometimes outside his legs, and sometimes be- 
tween them. He was officer of the day. There 
was a quizzical light in the colonel's eyes as he 
turned to Lawrence. 

" Where are your boys, Lawrence ? I'll bet you 
can't put your finger on them, or guess within half 
a mile of their whereabouts." 

"I'll take you at any odds, Colonel," he replied. 
" I caught the little rats at the pay-table, trying to 
head off the fund for the Catholic hospital. And 
they were doing it, too ! They had thirty cents 
between them when I took them red-handed. I 
marched them home, and Mrs. Lawrence and I at 
once court-martialed them." 

" I beg your pardon, Mr. Lawrence — what did 
you do ? " asked Father Brugau, struck by the 
phrase, and bending forward in his interest. 

" Com't - martialed them. We never think of 
punishing them without allowing them a fair 
trial. I was the judge advocate, and Mrs. Law- 
rence was the court. I brought the offenders be- 
fore the court, stated the case against them, and 
volunteered to act as their counsel. They declined 
my ser\dces, pleaded guilty, alleged first offence, 
and threw themselves on the mercy of the court. 
The court was then cleared by putting the boys 
in the hall with the door open, so that they might 
see us at our deliberations — not that we might 



14: ON THE OFFENSIVE 

keep an eye ou them. We readied a finding in 
accordance with the plea, called them in, and pub- 
lished the sentence of the court : that they be im- 
mediately confined in the nursery for a space of 
two hours, then to have their limits extended to 
include the back yard for the rest of the day. 
They're in the back yard now, Colonel, or I lose 
my wager." 

" You have seen them there ? " asked the 
priest. 

" No, but they would watch the clock sharply to 
know when the two hours were up." 

"Perhaps they have disregarded their limits," 
Spurbridge suggested. 

" Not a bit of it ! " protested Lawrence. " They 
are on their honor in the back yard, and they 
have as high a regard for their honor as any 
majah you ever saw ! They have an impression 
that when they lose their honor the sky will fall 
down and smother them." 

" Pity we can't inoculate the enlisted man with 
the same idea," Spurbridge" remarked, settling his 
shoulders back with an air of superior rectitude 
in the commissioned strength. 

Ralph cleared his throat nervously, clanked his 
sword, and addressed himself to Miss Gerrish. 
" I tell Lawrence he'll have to run those two boys 
— take 'em out in a leash, you know, like a couple 
of spaniels — a pair you don't want to get mixed 
with the rest of the pack. They were down at the 



ON TUE OFFENSIVE 15 

pumping-liouse tlie other day, trying to get their 
fingers pinched off short in the engine. The en- 
gineer didn't see them come in, and he keeps a 
good watch out, too. He thinks they fell into the 
creek, you know, and were pumped up to the tanks 
and floated back down the pipes. Lawrence ought 
to put flanges on them so they can't get through 
such little places." 

Mrs. Gerrish came out and joined the group. 
She was a large and rather severe lady, who 
builded her conduct by conventional rules. At 
her window-seat she heard the voices that pro- 
claimed a gathering of men, and deemed it unwise 
to leave Lydia unsupported in their midst. So she 
came into view, greeted the assemblage with an all- 
inclusive " Good-afternoon, gentlemen," and sat 
by Lydia. She rarely added to the spice of a 
conversation ; her function was rather to appear 
simply in the support of propriety. Lydia moved 
a chair for her, looked into her face to discover if 
she had the maternal approval, and finding she 
had, turned again to the chatty officers. 

Father Brugan, feeling on the defensive when 
the enlisted men Avere in question, had taken up 
Spurbridge's remark. " I supposed honor was a 
large share of the stock-in-trade of soldiers," he 
said, combatively. 

"A little of it goes a good ways, sometimes," 
Spurbridge retm'ned. " It makes a good veneer, 
but it doesn't seem to soak into the grain." 



16 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

"That's just Spurbridge's slate-blue way of 
looking at it," Ralph burst in, more at ease now 
that he was talking with the men. " He never got 
over the trick his company played him when he 
joined. One of the men came over and borrowed 
five dollars of him ; then he went back and told his 
waiting comrades the game was easy. The com- 
pany at once began to file over to Spurbridge's 
quarters, and in the course of a week he had 
loaned out nearly a month's paj^ — of which I'm 
mistaken if he ever saw a cent again. I tell him 
he ought to consider it a sort of initiation fee, and 
not lay it up against the company so high. Any 
man '11 take the chance of a snap when it's shaken 
at him. I would — and that's the pose of the 
majority, I guess." 

Mrs. Gerrish looked at the loquacious young 
man with clear disapproval. Lydia laughed with 
the knowledge in her innocence that he was talk- 
ing for effect, and not to advance serious views. 
Father Brugan appeared - distressed to learn such 
things of the men with whom he labored through 
love. 

" I hope all are not so bad ? " he inquired. 

" Not all ; but there is a steady glare of truth 
through what Ral]ih says," Spurbridge declared. 
" But I don't think that event has colored my judg- 
ment, although Ralph says very properly the temp- 
tation was great." 

" Oh, thanks, thanks," murmured Rali)h, turning 



ON THE OFF^ENSIVE 11 

to force a smile from Miss Gerrish, Spurbritlge 
unconsciously followed his swift glance, and then 
blushed guiltily. 

"Well, what has colored it, then?" demanded 
Lawrence. Colonel Gerrish sat back watching the 
group. He was well satisfied to let his lieutenants 
have the conversation to themselves, while he made 
quick estimates of their values. 

" It's the natural tint," Spurbridge declared. " I 
don't think the rank and file know what honor is 
— I am giving you a generality. The childhood 
and youth and general associations of the men are 
not such as to give them any great regard for it. 
The army isn't made up of gentlemen's sons in 
hard luck, but of men to whom the woollen shirt 
and black coffee come nearer being luxuries than 
necessaries. And I don't mean that they are all 
scamps and desperadoes, either, but simply men 
whose lives have been low and unfortunate. AYe 
recruit principally from the cities, and from the 
floating population at that. I suppose we all know 
what that is ; if we don't, the police records can 
show us." 

"Well, it is ser\'ice records that count with us," 
Lawrence replied, " and those don't bear you 
out. Of course there are scoundrels, but the gen- 
eral result is what Ave're figuring on ; and the gen- 
eral result is good." 

"Yes, and why?" Spurbridge caught up the 
point quickly. "The reason the service doesn't 
2 



18 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

show tlie worse side of tlie men's characters is tliat 
they stand in fear of discipline. They are brave 
enough and reckless enough to face anything that 
can fight ; that is what the service records show. 
But they are honorable only through stress of cir- 
cumstances — and that is not honor at all." 

" It must be something good, though. What 
will you call it ? " 

" Oh, call it compromise, if you like," said Spur- 
bridge, with irritating indulgence. " The honora- 
ble man will be bound by his honor in all things ; 
the men do their duty because they have got to, or 
suffer. Is there any honor in the enlisted man's 
life outside his duty, even ? I know of none." 

The colonel's orderly came to the steps, saluted, 
and said a man out of Lieutenant Spurbridge's 
company wished to speak to him a minute, if the 
lieutenant was willing. Spurbridge ran down the 
steps and around the corner to meet him. In a 
moment he returned. Lydia was chatting gayly 
to the group, and when a pause occurred he began 
to speak. 

"I was saying some pretty black things about 
the enlisted men, and perhaps this is a judgment 
on my hasty tongue ; but now I have something 
good to say, and I am in just as much of a hurry 
to say it. That man wanted me to take his mon- 
ey and keep it for him. He was afraid if he had 
it he would gamble and lose ; guess he never 
thought of winning. That would be an impossi- 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 19 

bility over there." He waved liis hand toward the 
saloon. 

" Suppose he did lose it," said Father Brugan, 
argumentative! J taking an extreme view. " Would 
it matter very much ? Temptation would then be 
removed from his path. And he would not suffer 
for anything ; I understand the pay is in addition 
to food and clothing ? " 

" That is so, but he saves his money to send to 
his old mother," said Spurbridge, determined to 
set the man in a good light. " It seems she de- 
pends upon ten dollars a month from him for the 
best part of her support." 

"Why didn't he send it to her at once, and not 
bother you ? " 

" Oh, he knew it would be no bother. An officer 
is always ready to help his men. And besides, he 
didn't dare go to town to-day for a post-office 
order, because the pitfalls are many and no mercy 
is shown a soldier. The town is run ' wide open ' 
whenever the paymaster is at the post." 

"You will excuse me, I am sure," continued the 
priest ; " you were gone with the soldier so short a 
time, I would really like to know what security he 
asked of you? " 

" None whatever." In slight surprise. 

" None ? " 

" Except my word. What else ? " 

"But in business transactions some written 
acknowledgment — some receipt " 



20 ON TUB OFFENSIVE 

" It is not necessary among men of — with a man 
of honor." Spnrbritlge stumbled a little over the 
correction ; he saw the drift of the priest's ques- 
tioning. But he had no feeling of resentment ; 
Father Brugau was too highly esteemed to be rele- 
gated to the position of a mere outsider. 

" Then the enlisted man does look upon his offi- 
cer as a man of honor ? " came in the priest's quiet 
tones. 

" Unquestionably. Sometimes he is mistaken ; 
I admit it with sorrow. But it is necessary that 
the soldier should look up to his officer for guid- 
ance, military and spiritual — when we are de- 
prived of the services of a Father Brugan." He 
stopped, and made a little bow as of acknowledg- 
ment of the priest's good offices. " The officer 
cannot be below, or even on, the soldier's plane. 
He must be above it." 

" Thank you. I understand," murmured the 
priest. " So I presume there may be a nearly 
constant ratio between the uprightness of the offi- 
cer and of the enlisted man — an equal distance be- 
tween their planes ? " 

"Why, yes, there might be," the young fellow 
replied, a little puzzled. "It is a pretty problem 
in metaphysics, but I dare say it would work out 
geometrically." 

Kalph burst out with a laugh of sudden appre- 
ciation. "And I say, Spurbridge ! " he called, 
"here's an element of the problem that Father 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 21 

Brugan has forborne to mention. It won't do for 
us to sit 'round and growl because the men are no 
different. If we want to elevate the plane of the 
enlisted men, first elevate our own. The other 
rises with it. Isn't that the idea ? " he added, ap- 
pealing with voice and gesture to the priest. 

" Oh, I didn't say that ! " he protested, in dismay. 
But the others laughed heartily, and declared the 
point well taken. And while the little confusion 
still ruled, the priest arose and said he must re- 
turn to town. And he struck off across the pa- 
rade, his finely constructed figure towering above 
ordinary men he chanced to meet. His poise was 
strong and restful. Colonel Gerrish, following 
him with his eyes, exclaimed, in a burst of impa- 
tience : 

" What a pity he chose to make but half an ex- 
istence ! What a pity he is a j^riest ! " 

" That's so ! " murmured the young officers, in 
assent. Lydia alone seemed to recognize the fact 
that bone and sinew were in as great demand in 
his work as any other. She sighed : 

" What a pity there are not more like him ! " 

" Lydia ! " exclaimed Mrs. Gerrish, in reproof. 
The tone of the girl's words, her implied thought, 
were not conventional. There was, too, a con- 
structive criticism of the officers about her. 

"That is quite true, mamma," she returned, calm- 
ly. For when she was fixed in an opinion, even 
the admonition of her mother failed of its usual 



22 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

effect. " He is engaged iii war quite as seriously 
as ever papa was, and lie liglits all the time. A 
weak man or an old one would be of no use at all 
here ; it must require just such a man as he. And 
what would this bo without one strong, sincere 
worker ? " 

Father Brugan walked toward home in good 
spirits. He did not hear the commendation of 
Miss Gerrish, but it may have been its elevating 
influence that caused him to step so springily, to 
hold his chin so well up, and to fairly smile in the 
face of day. At the corner of the barracks he was 
intercepted by Gavin, caj) in hand. " I done as 
you said, y'r Kiv'runce. I'm glad, an' my mother'll 
bless you." The priest commended him, and 
passed on. Suddenly a woman ran out to him. 
This was Mrs. Killeen, and her daughter Kitty 
peeped wistfully from the door of the Killeen 
quarters. The woman said her man had brought 
homo his entire pay without a word. She could 
not understand it until she heard Father Brugan 
was in the post, and so she had run out to weep 
a grateful tear in his presence. Father Brugan 
smiled upon her, and passed on. He looked in 
the bright sky and saw the floating clouds lying 
floecily light above one another. Abroad, above, 
all the forms of nature were beautiful; and the 
happiness of human beings in these fair surround- 
ings was beincr increased through his deeds. He 



Oli THE OFFENSIVE 23 

pressed his Lands together and breathed a deep 
breath of pure satisfaction, for he felt that he had 
done well ; all nature cast upon him her commen- 
dation. 

Then, as he went down the winding foot-path, 
he came upon a soldier in uniform, lying prone, 
sleeping oflf the gutterings of intoxication. Two 
paces beyond, on a limestone shelf, lay another. 
Empty flasks were handily near each. He stopped, 
a chill of horror at his heart ; not that the sight 
was so uncommon, but that it should come so full 
upon his happy self-communings. The sounds 
from the saloon pursued him, fell upon him taunt- 
ingly — the shrieking of tortured violins, the hoarse 
chant of revelry, the clash and crash of glasses. 
He heard a woman trolling forth with raucous 
voice a ditty to which came a refrain, heavy and 
degraded with the sodden shouts of men. Look- 
ing about him, his eye was taken by the flutter of 
a gay-colored garment from an upper window — 
the flag of defiance at a stronghold of sin. And 
he went on, stepping his homeward way with a 
despairing face, and murmuring : 

" But they have done so much more against 
me ! " 



II 



Upon Lieutenant Ealpli, as officer of the day, 
devolved the responsibility for order in the post, 
and he was compelled to be continually watchful. 
Ordinarily a tour of duty passed uneventfully 
enough ; but ordinarily the men were not cursed 
with the possession of money for which they had 
no good use. The saloon was the point upon 
which Ealph had to keep his eye. It was like a 
great pot boiling and seething over a hot fire. 
He had to see that none of the overflow trickled 
into the post or disturbed its serenity. A duty 
of this kind is always difficult and patience-trying, 
and, in a way, thankless ; in any event, it would be 
far easier to take the pot off the fire, or even to 
stamp the fire out. But that he could not do. 
That would have been to take into his own hands 
the functions of the civil power ; and the civil 
power, being in such fi'outier places the weaker, 
was eminently jealous of the militar}^, and required 
to be soothed and conciliated, not antagonized. 
The military power was constitutionally subordi- 
nate to the civil. Should it, then, step beyond the 
boundaries of its station, even for the purpose of 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 25 

self-protection ? Not at all. No provision was 
made for sucli an act. 

Ealpli caused the sergeant of tlie guard to go 
forth with a patrol and gather in such members of 
the garrison as he found hors de combat ; and he 
chafed over his acknowledged inability to enforce 
the order prohibiting the bringing into garrison 
of liquors. He did everything that suggested it- 
self in the performance of his duty, and might 
have received compliments on his efficiency, had it 
been the army way to make them. It was not. 
Men did their duty at whatever cost, as a matter of 
course. Had they neglected it, something would 
have been said ; and so silence had become as 
favorable a commentary as any reasonable man 
could ask. 

Ealph did his duty because it was his duty to 
do it. Personally, he had a warm sympathy for 
the men. He drank a good deal himself, except 
when on duty ; then it was part of his duty to re- 
main sober. At such times a case of intoxication 
did not seem to him a funny thing. He would 
feel a certain pity for the fellow, born of his own 
experience, and would preferably set about getting 
him out of the way to a spot where he could be 
comfortable and recover his wits undisturbed. 
That was what it was to be himself given to sip- 
ping and supping. 

The noises from the saloon did not cease with 
the going down of the ashamed sun. The even- 



26 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

iug tbickeued, and fierce red liglits slioue from the 
windows. There were shouts and a medley of in- 
articulate noises, all animated by triumph. For 
the soldiers were pretty well through with their 
debauch ; the men and women against whom they 
had pitted themselves were experts, and required 
but a few hours to reduce the month's pay to a 
remnant not worth considering, Hardl}' one blue 
uniform was now to be found at the saloon, and 
the revelry grew to a delirium. The place was 
filled with uncertain characters who answered to 
nicknames indicative of personal peculiarities, with 
grimy cowboys who straddled about in shaggy 
chaparejos, with swart Mexicans who had crept 
out of their adobe huts as the night came down. 
These were people who did not love soldiers. 
They looked upon them with aversion, cast ob- 
loquy upon them with every sentence, had per- 
haps fought against them on unnamed frontier 
fields. It needed but the infiaming infiuence of 
drink to bring to the surface all their vindictive- 
ness, to stir them to some expression of their 
enmity. 

Ealph, sitting on his porch, heard the popping 
of revolvers at the saloon, saw the red flashes leap 
out into the night, and listened to the whistle of 
bullets past. As though this was a signal for 
which he had waited, he sprang to his feet, catch- 
ing up his sword with one hand, and ran down 
the road past the ofiicers' quarters toward the 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 27 

saloon. As lie ran, more red flashes burst out, 
and bullets cut tlie air about him. Once, when 
a lucky shot shattered the glass of a street light 
above his head, there were shrieks of exultation, 
and voices cried : 

" There goes one of 'em ! Let's have an- 
other ! " 

Suddenly Ralph sprang into the narrow circle of 
their vision, panting : 

" Let up on that ! " 

The stillness of the dumb and palsied fell upon 
the group. They expected next to hear the quick 
trampling of the guard, to see their rifles thrown 
forward in uncompromising menace. It was not 
until they discovered that Ralph was alone that 
some of them laughed weakly, and others became 
inclined to curse him. He was not dismaj^ed. 
His eye was upon the proprietor, who had come 
out, wondering at the sudden quiet. 

" If I come down here with the guard there'll be 
more shooting yet," he threatened. 

The proprietor listened and trembled. He re- 
lied upon the patronage of the post, and very cer- 
tainly had no wish to antagonize so good a cus- 
tomer as Ralph. He instinctively put the matter 
on personal grounds and begged off. 

" That's right, leftenant. You're all right." 
He turned to the group. "Don't let's have no 
more of this, boys. F'r God's sake, let up. We 
don't want no row. This's a respectable place, an' 



2S ON THE OFFENSIVE 

tliere luiin't ben a row here to-day, Dou't spoil it 
all now, f'r God's sake." 

" Aw, f'r Gawd's sake," jeered a woman, mimick- 
ing his tone of pleading. Some of the men laughed 
at her reassuringly. 

" That's what I said ! " snapped the proprietor, 
finding he must assert himself vigorously. " This 
ain't likely to be no woman's business, an' you'd 
better keep sliet of it." She shrank back in sud- 
den fear. 

" It's your affair," said Ralph, " I've given you 
fair warning, and if there's any more of this I 
won't leave two sticks of your shop standing, and 
some folks '11 get hurt. You hear me ? " 

He walked calmly awa}'. As he passed out of 
earshot one of the men said, half admiringly : 

" Th' little cuss is plucky ! D'ye reckon he'll 
keep his word ? " 

" You bet he will ! " replied the proprietor, 
warming to the task of promoting affable respect. 
" He ain't afraid o' nothin'. I hioio him ! " 

" I reckon you do ! " laughed another. " He's 
had his skin full o' your liquor more'u once." 

" That's wliat ! " he assented, in genial recollec- 
tion. 

" Well, I allers do like a man that'll take a drink 
an' call your bluff. I sort o' rcspec' 'im. Let's let 
up. 

" That's right, boys," said the proprietor, ap]:>rov- 
ingly, as ho saw a general thrusting of revolvers 



ox TEE OFFENSIVE 29 

into belts. " He's a good little feller, an' we don't 
want to get him into no trouble. Come on. Let's 
all go in an' have a drink. It's on me." 

Ralph strolled back up the officers' line as calmly 
as though nothing nearer than the stars required 
his strict attention. Colonel Gerrish had come out 
on his porch when the firing was heard, and had 
witnessed Ralph's prompt action. He withdrew 
into the hous3 as Ralph came back, and felt like 
congratulating himself on the quality of at least 
one officer of his command. Lawrence and his 
wife were also out, and Lawrence called to him : 

" What's been the matter down there, Ralph? " 

" They got late on their Fourth of July celebra- 
tion and were trying to make up lost time, I sus- 
pect," Ralph laughed. 

" But didn't they fire right into the post ? " asked 
Mrs. Lawrence, anxiously. "I think they broke 
that lamp in front of our quarters." She was 
fearing that more bullets might find their en'atic 
way into an upper chamber where two boys lay 
asleep. 

"I am afraid you will be alone in that opinion," 
Ralph said, to reassure her. " Looks to me as 
though it Avas done with a stone ; that's about the 
explanation the quartermaster will make on his 
returns. Let's see — the boys are big enough to 
throw stones, aren't they? Summon me as a wit- 
ness when you court-martial them ! " 



30 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

" There, Millicent, I told you you were wrong," 
said Lawrence, comfortingly. " Nobody is going 
to fire into the post. Let us go in. Thanks, Ilalj)li ; 
good-night," he called. 

Spurbridge's bachelor quarters were that side of 
Ralph's own, and an inviting light shone from the 
windows. Ralph went in unceremoniously and 
found Spurbridge with his heels on the mantel, 
drawing blue consolation from a pipe. " Come in ! " 
he had yelled without stirring when Ralph's single 
knock sounded on the door. 

" Hope I don't disturb your train of thought," 
Ralph remarked, apologetically. 

" Hope you do," responded Spurbridge, point- 
ing to a chair placed on the other side of the fire- 
place in position to correspond Avitli his own. With 
another wave of the hand he hospitably indicated 
a pipe and a jar of tobacco on the mantel, mid\\'ay 
between. 

" Thanks, doubly," said Ralph, accepting both 
invitations, " Do you mind if I knock it off the 
track ? " 

" What ? " 

" Your train of thought." 

" Oh, that ! She's ditched already — many thanks 
to you." Spurbridge threw his arms wearily above 
his head. " A man may sometimes knowingly en- 
tertain those who are angels unawares." 

" You rate me above my class, old man," said 
Ralph, with becoming modesty, " But anyway, 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 31 

seeing you are so glad to have me here, I believe 
I'll owl yon till time to inspect my guard." 

" I don't believe yoti can do any better." 

Ralph tested the draw of the pipe that had been 
offered him, and finding it all it should be, filled 
the bowl, pressing the tobacco down mechanically 
with his finger. Then he struck a match, and for 
a few moments devoted his mind and energy to the 
task of lighting. Spurbridge abstained from re- 
mark during this critical period, unwilling to dis- 
tract his attention. Ralph's efforts were crowned 
with success, and sinking into his chair, he ele- 
vated his heels to the mantel, to correspond with 
Spurbridge's. The mantel decoration w^as thus 
made harmonious and symmetrical in its own right 
— just as a china dog at one end of a shelf should 
be balanced by a china cat at the other, or as small 
flower vases should always go in pairs. Ralph and 
Spurbridge did not look at each other through the 
tobacco smoke to indicate their satisfaction ; they 
looked at their respective boots, and finding the 
decorative effect good, drew into their souls a 
pleasing sense of fitness and completeness in each 
other's friendship and company. 

" "What sort of a day have you had ? " Spur- 
bridge asked, casually. 

" I think the devil set his mark upon it — sealed 
it for his very own," Ralph replied, bitterly. " The 
whole garrison has been on a jag. I've got the 
guard-house full of plain drunks and ornate drunk- 



32 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

and-disorderlies. Some are in the hospital with 
cuts and bruises. The guard's been on the jump 
all day, and a general sheolic atmosphere has per- 
vaded the place. I'll be glad when 8 a.m. comes 
to-morrow, and I can turn the safe conduct of the 
post over to my successor." 

" These pay-day tours are apt to be rather hard 
on one," Spurbridge observed, sympathetically. 

" Yes, there's always the chance of it. It's the 
money, you know. Money is the root of all evil ; 
did you ever hear that before ? " he asked, quizzi- 
cally. Then, without desiring a reply, " I sup- 
pose Congress is onto that, and intentionally keeps 
our pay low enough to afford a large factor of 
safety. Twenty-nine days in the month we are 
correct enough for any society ; it's only on the 
thirtieth we get a chance to kick up our heels a 
little. I'm speaking more for the men than our- 
selves, you know ; we can always compass a small 
jag when we feel like it." 

" We can always count on the men to kick uj) 
rough if they have the slightest show for it," Spur- 
bridge declared. 

" Oh, not always, Spurbridge," Ealph said, more 
tolerantly. " Give the devils their due. It runs 
in streaks, like the fat and lean of sowbelly. Some- 
times the post is as quiet on pay-day as a Shaker 
meeting, when the spirit is in statu quo ; then per- 
haps only one or two companies Avill feel the air 
winnowed by the spirit's Avings ; and next time, 



ox THE OFFENSIVE 33 

like to-day, every man will be on liis feet and all 
talking at once. It is very confusing at such 
times," he complained. " One can get only the 
general tenor of the discourse. But most men 
would be satisfied with that." 

" Especially those who are trying to conduct the 
meeting," Spurbridge laughed. His mind took a 
sharp turn from its sternly critical attitude ; his 
wish was to be just rather than severe. " But I 
suppose there will be exceptions to the general 
rule, even when pay-day appears to be all fat ? " 
he sugo-ested. 

" Reversing the proposition that one black sheep 
will be found in every fold ? " queried Ralph. 

" Yes. I was thinking of my man Gavin, you 
know." 

" Oh, certainly ! The one that tackled you on 
the C. O.'s porch. How much did he have ? " 

" Only his month's pay." 

Ralph grew thoughtful over trusts that had been 
reposed in him. " I have had a man come to me," 
he said, "and want me to take care of large sums 
— hundreds of dollars— at a time. His winnings, 
you know, that he wouldn't dare keep in ban-acks 
over-night. He knew the communistic spirit that 
prevails across the parade would leave him as poor 
as ever by morning ; but he felt no uneasiness 
once he had left it in an officer's hands ! Of 
course such faith as that is child-like ; it is unrea- 
soning, and one might say, unreasonable." 
3 



34 OX THE OFFENSIVE 

" I wisli it wasn't," said Spurbriclge, regretfully. 

" Oh, of course. We should both be glad if it 
were based on aiiythiug broader than service dis- 
cipline, which teaches the men, nolens volens, to 
have faith in us. We have seen officers go to the 
wall with as disgraceful a financial exposure- 
debts and diverted funds — as could happen in any 
business. There are two or three a year even in 
our little army, but in sj)ite of it all the confidence 
of the men is unshaken. They still'look upon an 
officer as — as — as " 

" The incarnation of honor," suggested Spur- 
bridge. 

" Ah, that," said Ralph. " Honor. Funny, too ; 
an officer does seem to have more honor toward 
the enlisted men than in some other directions." 
Spurbridge looked at him in surprise. " That is 
to say," Ralph replied, " although we know officers 
do go to smash themselves, ruin their families and 
all, did you ever hear that an enlisted man suffered 
through faith reposed in an officer? Did you ? " 

" Never," said Spurbridge, emphatically. 

Ralph pulled intently at his pipe, took down his 
knowledge of cases in point, looked it over, and 
put it back without using. " So they go on trust- 
ing," he said, " Because they never have been 
struck by lightning they think they never will. 
Well, what storms may come we know not." He 
paused a moment, contemplatively. "Excellent 
feeling round the heart, though, to reflect that a 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 35 

lot of men are constantly learning to trust you as 
helplessly and uuquestioningiy as a child learns 
and believes in his catechism. Gives one a pro- 
tecting air." He laughed a little with amusement. 
" How is that, Spurbridge, at our age to be fathers 
to whole platoons of grown-up, hairy-fisted fight- 
ing men ? " 

" It surpasses my wildest ambitions," Spur- 
bridge declared. " I never thought when I put on 
the uniform that I assumed paternal cares with it." 

" No, that's one of the surprises of the service." 

They sat grinning at their boots in delight of 
the whimsey, and they recharged the smoked-out 
pipes before they continued talking. By that 
time Ralph's active mind had picked up another 
thread growing out of their previous conversation. 
He and Spurbridge alwaj's talked easily together ; 
they were sympathetic in a high degree. E-alph 
seemed to see in Spurbridge the character that 
had been his own when he was fresh in the ser- 
vice. If he spent much time with him now, it 
might be that he desired to inform the younger 
officer against errors that had been unfortunate for 
liimself. 

"Your speaking of Gavin," said Ralph, "and 
the talk about honor at the C. O.'s, reminds me of 
a man we used to have in the regiment — I forget 
when he did graduate. He was promoted out 
and didn't transfer back. Good man, too, and we 
were sorry." 



36 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

" Who was he ? " 

" Wallace Avas his name. He was with Burns's 
company." 

" In the service now ? I can't place him," said 
Spurbridge, after a little thought. 

"Oh, it was before your day. No, he isn't in 
the service now. He married a girl back East, 
and a year after he was promoted he resigned. 
His wife had money, and I always had an idea 
she didn't like it, being separated so from her 
people and knocking about from one post to an- 
other. When Wallace resigned he went into busi- 
ness with her father. But he didn't like the ser- 
vice very well, somehow," Ralph said, reflectively. 
"I remember he used to have a good deal to say 
about honor and the lack of it. Perhaps that was 
why he left." 

" I don't know where he'd look for it with any 
better chance of success than in the army," said 
Spurbridge, resentfully. " It is scarce ; all desir- 
able things are ; that's one reason why they are 
desirable." 

"Y-e-e-s — well, it's in the army and out of it, 
both. No one class of men has a monopoly. 
We've got just as much of it as outside people ; 
no more." He paused and sent a keen glance at 
Spurbridge. " If we do seem a little more punc- 
tilious in regard to debts and general conduct, it 
isn't because of honor." 

" No ? " said Spurbridge, in surprise. 



ox THE OFFENSIVE 37 

"Why, that's just what you said this morning 
about the enlisted men," said Ralph, triumphant- 
ly. " Can't you admit that it's as true of the Line 
as of Barracks ? " He spoke as if in denial of 
any honorable motive. " We do what we ought, 
because we'd be incontinently kicked out if we 
didn't. We're no better than other people, and 
it's only a part of the pose to pretend we are." 

" But we are ! " declared Spurbridge, uneffaced. 
" I don't say this with any swelling of vain-glory. 
We have had advantages ; the men have had none. 
We Avere educated at a place where honor and pa- 
triotism were the legs we stood on, and every- 
thing that could be done to make us highminded 
was done. Do you pretend that the endeavor has 
been wasted ? Of course we're better than the 
enlisted men ! If not, we ought to be ashamed of 
ourselves." 

Ralph shook his head at him with an exaggera- 
tion of sad discouragement. " Oh, youth, youth ! 
What fine sentiments do you waste on the desert 
air, the calloused ear of the world we live in ! 
My dear boy, the man who said words were given 
us to conceal our thoughts, might have added that 
the end of education was to veneer the real crea- 
ture, to idealize the natural, honest man." 

" He was a cynic like yourself, and I'm sorry 
for him," retorted Spurbridge, hotly. 

" You are very young, Spurbridge — even younger 
than you think," Ralph continued, stiffening a lit- 



38 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

tie under the fling. " You have been out from the 
Academy a little more than a year ; I graduated 
seven years before you did. Perhaps you will not 
take it as boasting if I say that I have learned 
more in these eight years, without intentional in- 
struction, than I did all the time those kind pro- 
fessors at West Point were getting me in shape to 
wear shoulder-straps ? " 

" Oh, no," said Sjiurbridge, flinging back his 
head. " It only indicates that some men don't 
improve the advantages those professors afl'ord 
them." 

This little pin of Spurbridge's pricked sharply. 
" As to that," said Pialph, loftily, " class rank is 
generally taken as the standard of judgment. I 
might compare mine with yours — but I won't. In 
seven years more, with ordinary luck, you will 
have learned that class standing indicates little 
else than capacity' for booking. Our best soldiers 
have been men to whom books were secondary 
considerations. Nearly all of them graduated 
somewhere about the immortals," and got the 
Aveight of their education later." 

" Yes, I admit that about the big generals," said 
Spurbridge. " It's a matter of record, anyway. 
And as for this aftermath of education, I suppose 
you mean experience in human afi^airs ? Kubbing 
up against people ? Understanding human nat- 

* The word is applied at West Point to cadets who lag at the 
foot of their class. 



OK THE OFFENSIVE 39 

ure ? " Kalpli nodded repeatedly. " Well, that 
takes time," Spurbridge continued, defensively, 
" and, I suppose, a certain human talent — -or tal- 
ent for humanity — that we possess in varj'ing de- 
gree. I didn't think of that, though, when you 
spoke," he admitted, manfully. " I went back to 
the Academy." 

" Of course you did," said Ralph, patronizingly. 
" It only proves what I said — that you are young. 
You've got a fistful of savoir-faire of a social sort, 
Spurbridge, but your hand isn't worth holding 
when it comes to the every-day affairs of life." 

" I know it," Spurbridge grieved, contritely ; 
" but what am I to do ? " 

" Hold up something and draw to it," Ralph 
suggested, lightly ; and then, seeing that Spur- 
bridge was in serious mood, continued ; " Oh, it's 
merely a matter of environment. You went from 
a quiet home to the seclusion of the Academy, and 
haven't had a real chance at the world yet. ' What 
shall you do ? ' Why, rustle round and mix in the 
herd all you can ! AVherever you go, read your 
footprints ; see what you do, and understand why 
you do it. But what am I talking like this for? 
You're no babe : you've got sense even if you- do 
lack experience. Excuse me, old man, and gang 
your ain gait to Avernus. That's what I'm doing 
— and all the rest of us." 

" Oh, hold on, Ralph ! Don't throw it over that 
way ! " Spui-bridge entreated. " I know what you 



40 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

mean — and I don't mind, I assure you ! I shouldn't 
care to have others in the regiment say these 
things to me — but it's different with you. We 
understand each other — better — somehow. You're 
pretty well along through the mill, and I'm just 
starting in to be ground. Say anything you 
please, Ealph. It's a favor you're trying to do 
me, and I have sense enough to see that, anywa3\" 

Ralph admitted the intended favor with a grudg- 
ing dislike of being detected. " Well, yes, I do 
mean it all right, and we do understand the case. 
This mill's a mighty irregular thing, Spurbridge. 
Some places let you through easy, and some just 
husk the flesh off your bones. With the assist- 
ance of considerable whiskey and poker I have 
succeeded in being reduced to the mimsy skele- 
ton you see before you." He stretched his rather 
meagre form in the chair to show the result of the 
grinding, and laughed in grim recognition of it. 

" Not so bad as that," Spurbridge said, comfort- 
ingly. "You're in fine, healthy trim — ready for a 
campaign to-morrow ! " 

" No, I'm not," groaned Ralph, thinking of the 
rest that should come after his tour of duty. 

'•' None of these plainspeople carry any meat on 
their bones," said Spurbridge, reasoning by anal- 
ogy. " The fat man doesn't seem to be indige- 
nous, and he doesn't bear transplanting." 

" Very pretty, but untrue," said Ralph, doggedly. 
" But getting back to where we were a while ago, 



ON TEE OFFENSIVE 41 

there is one thing of profit a fellow learns during 
eight years of frontier service." 

" Yes ? Well, what is it ? " 

" Not to talk so much about honor. Don't treat 
it as an exotic ; take it as a matter of course. It's 
kind of spread-eagly to refer to it all the time ; 
sort of newspaperish, too. The newspapers will 
give you enough of that if you ever do anything 
worth while — just as they'll pile the mud onto you 
if the luck sets the other way. You'll never get a 
just measure of praise or of blame ; there will be 
an excess in either case." 

" I suppose so," Spurbridge murmured. " But 
honor being so good a thing " 

" Ah, that's just it ! It is so good it won't stand 
talking about. It's a most excellent thing, but the 
name of it has fallen into a certain disrepute. 
The civilian world has a way of saying of you and 
of me : ' Oh, he's an army officer. His sense of 
honor is beyond question.' They expect an officer 
to be ' honorable ' in a higher degree than almost 
anyone else ; and so it isn't exactly good form for 
an officer to go about exploiting his own best point. 
They know he's got it, or he isn't fit to be an offi- 
cer. No ; don't be surprised that an officer should 
have honor — and, 'way down in your heart of inner 
consciousness, don't be surprised when you find 
one without any." 

" You think I talk about it too much ? " Spur- 
bridge asked, in a weakly grieved way. 



42 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

" That's the only fault I ever heard found with 
Wallace," Ralph replied, guardedly. 

" Oh, yes ; Wallace. The fellow that resigned ? " 
" Yes, he resigned." 

They were silent for a little time, watching the 
smoke from their pipes circle slowly as it sought 
an outlet, and was tinally drawn wreathing into the 
open fireplace and up the chimney. AVithout, the 
unhallowed sounds of revelry had ceased. The 
high stillness of the prairie lay upon the station, 
save for the rhythmical tramping where a sentinel 
paced the length of the guard-house porch ; and 
this, softened by distance, was as the throbbing of 
the hush. Then, even that ceased, and the listen- 
ers heard the clang of the sentinel's rifle as he 
threw it across his body and roared the hour of the 
night : " Number One ; eleven o'clock ! " The cry 
was taken up by the sentinel on Number Two, 
adding, " All's well ! " The shouts sounded more 
and more distantly as the remoter sentinels proved 
their wakefulness. The last note of safety came 
like a bell from the depths of night, and " All's 
well ! " shouted Number One, conclusively, resum- 
ing his beat. The shouts ringing through the 
darkness and stillness from these isolated points 
thrilled the hearers strangely. All was well— all 
was well. It was wonderful, audacious, inconceiv- 
able, this piping assertion of human strength, 
knowledge, and endurance, in the very midst of the 
universe of the unknowable. 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 43 

Spurbridge arose, casting off the spell ; lie did 
not Avish to foster a liabit of dreamy speculation. 
He went into another room, and presently returned 
Avith glasses and a couple of bottles of cold beer. 
Then he brought in crackers and pickles, dried 
venison and cheese, Ealj^h regarded the prepara- 
tions appreciatively. 

"Not much of a lunch to-night," said Spur- 
bridge, apologetically. "My larder isn't extensive 
at the best. However, I guess this will do for a 
snack. I seem to have an appetite for just what's 
here." 

" That's a blessing," said Ealph, beaming on the 
spread. " May you always want just what you can 
get ! That's the secret of content, and content is 
the secret of a happy life. See ? I'm letting you 
have two secrets^ for the price of one. Ah, that 
beer looks good — the way it creams up ! Here's 
to you ; how ! " 

" How ! " responded Spurbridge. And the two 
drank that ancient toast of proven comrades. And 
they approached the lunch after the manner of 
healthy animals to whom everything edible is also 
digestible. 

" By the way," said Ralph, suddenly, " there is 
a quality that seems to spring from this of honor, 
we've been talking of. I mean, simplicity. Did 
It ever strike you that army officers as a class are 
childishly simple in regard to business affairs '? " 

Spurbridge's brow wrinkled as he looked in the 



44 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

shallow waters of his experience for an example. 
" No, I hadn't thought of it, but I reckon it may 
be so. We are unfamiliar with such things." 

" Yes, and the pose of special probity makes it 
all the worse for us," said Ralph, out of his wis- 
dom. " Our pay isn't anything to be proud of, 
you kuoAv, and if an officer has ambition to start a 
bank account he Avill get very tired of trying to 
save enough out of his pay to make a showing. 
He is more apt to take what little he has and put 
it into something that is boomed enticingly — some- 
thing that offers special inducements to army offi- 
cers ; that's the way some of 'em advertise," 
Spurbridge nodded ; he had seen such notices. 
" Well," said Ralph, "it's seldom that the officer's 
bank account is benefited thereby. He is a bird 
to be plucked," he declared, indignantly. " Specu- 
lation isn't in his line, and he'd better be content 
with his pay. It's enough to live on." 

" But officers sometimes resign and go into busi- 
ness," Spurbridge said, argumentatively. " Don't 
they succeed? Or what does become of them? " 

Ralph drained his glass before he answered. 
" Oh, yes, they resign, and some of them make a 
go of it. Others fail, and try to get back into the 
service with a loss of rank and prestige. You see, 
an army training isn't the same as a business train- 
ing. The two lines are entirely dissimilar, and a 
man can't go from one to the other by simply turn- 
ing his hand over." 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 45 

Spiirbridge pondered for a few moments on this. 
" I wonder if you always held this view? " he asked. 

" Course not," Ralph admitted, cheerfully. " I've 
come to it, as a man comes to all his views. When 
he outgrows one suit, he gets anothey. Why, there 
was a time when / thought seriously of resigning ! 
That was when I didn't know the army as well as I 
do now, and wasn't satisfied with it. But now I 
think it's good enough for me — and I'll live and 
die a soldier," he concluded, with a sudden air of 
bravado. 

" That man Wallace — he gets along, doesn't 
he ? " 

" I suppose so. But then, he's with his father- 
in-law and can't very well help it. Ajid what's 
more, he resigned before the rust of the service 
had eaten very far into his soul. He had a dis- 
taste for the rut, and got out before it became a 
second nature to him. He was not formed, and 
still had it in his power to make or unmake his 
future." 

" Well," said Spurbridge, with an air of having 
made a discovery, "it seems folly to resign. 
There's time enough in garrison for one to follow 
almost any line of study or research. Duty is a 
small matter in point of hours, and the whole day 
shouldn't be wasted. The pay insures a living, 
and takes away anxiety on that score ; and one can 
even afford to spend a little on some special branch. 
Nobody in the army seems to be rich ; I suppose 



46 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

if a man has money he prefers to be where he can 
have the benefit of it, and not hive up in a forgot- 
ten frontier station." 

" Ya-as," said Ealph, yawning, " There are 
more desirable pkices of residence — always are — 
than the place where you have to be. And as for 
improving your sparo time with outside concerns 
— we are all worms wriggling on the fish-hooks of 
Fate in the waters of coming oblivion ; and al- 
though many fish may nibble at us, Ave can be the 
stomach food of but one. But try it, old man, try 
it. That's the most satisfying thing to do, I've 
been there — and come away again," He had risen 
from his chair, and was girding on his sword and 
looking for his cap, " And now it's just midnight, 
and I'll go and inspect my guard. You're a first- 
class hand to owl, Spurbridge, and I'll reciprocate 
your kindness whenever you're on duty." 

Spurbridge had also risen, and was laughing at 
Ralph's metaphor. " Well, since we are worms, 
let's wriggle at a livel}' rate," he said, " In that way 
we may attract the attention of some especially 
fine fish, and in dying serve a lasting purpose of an 
admirable sort, I believe I'll go and look at the 
guard with you," 

" Come along, then ; it's a fine night," Ralph 
said, gladly. He survej'ed the crumbs of the feast. 
"Do you know," said he, "that little lunch re- 
minds me of the poker parties Ave had one Avinter, 
Avhen I Avas learniui^ the "aine ? " 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 47 

" How was that ? " 

" Some man, when officer of the day, asked the 
fellows to come round and keep him awake till 
midnight, and play penny-ante. We had a pleas- 
ant evening. Then we got in the way of adding a 
little lunch — something like yours to-night. Pres- 
ently the lunch became more elaborate. Then the 
limit of the game was raised to keep ujd the excite- 
ment. So it went till the lunch became a collation, 
and the game was so heavy that the married men 
didn't dare to come in on account of their wives ; 
the affair became too expensive, and the whole 
thing dropped. After the limit of competitive ex- 
travagance was reached, no one dared go back to 
the primitive cracker- and-beer, penny-ante, enter- 
tainment." Ralph laughed at the recollection. 

" Well, what do we argue from this ? " asked 
Spurbridge. 

" Oh, the moral? Well, hcec fabida docet quan^ 
turn bonum may be in a rational enjoyment of good 
things. Avoid excesses. Through the ambition 
of my brother-officers — and of myself — I made a 
large outlay at cards from which I have received 
no adequate return, and also acquired a touch of 
dyspei^sia. Leave competition alone." 

" It's the life of trade." 

" Wrong. It's the death of it." 

Spurbridge stood aghast. " You're not going 
back on all the platitudes, are you'?" he de- 
manded. 



48 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

Ralph waved bis arm fleeringly. " Most of them 
have served their time and should be retired. 
They should have gone out with Fourth of July 
oratory. We have no orators nowadays, and 
platitudes fall pretty flat in print. They make me 
tired." 

Spurbridge looked at him with a touch of aston- 
ishment that made Ralph chuckle in his throat. 
" You're a queer fellow ! " he said. " Are your 
views generally accepted ? " 

" I reckon not," said Ralph, with a satisfaction 
Spurbridge could not comprehend. 

" Then why do you hold to them '? " he de- 
manded, strong with the strength of popular theo- 
ries. 

"Why? " said Ralph; " perhaps that's one good 
reason." 

They stepped out upon the parade, and the vel- 
vet blackness of the night was against their faces. 
The stars, like rivet heads of burnished steel on 
the dusk armor-plates of heaven, sent single spears 
of bluish light piercing through the darkness to 
the earth. Down the line, the individual feat- 
ures of the houses sank into each other, and 
across the parade where barracks stood, only a 
long, unbroken line of intenser blackness was dis- 
cernible. At the very end stood the guard-house, 
and lights shone there. The two men made their 
way toward them across the parade, stepping 



Oy THE OFFEN!<IVE 49 

freely ; it was as familiar to them as tlie floor 
of quarters. Suddenly the watchfvil sentinel 
hoarsely challenged them. Kalph answered ; the 
sleepy men of the reliefs off post tumbled out of 
doors, fell into line, and were cursorily inspected. 
Ealph went within, and looked through the grat- 
ings at the prisoners, lying on the floor in slumber. 
Then he rejoined Spurbridge, who had halted be- 
yond the lighted circle, and went around the beats 
of the sentinels. 

" I always inspect at midnight," said Spurbridge, 
as they went. "The guard is expecting you at 
that hour, and there are fewer of the men asleep. 
If I were eflicient to the point of crankiness, I 
suppose I should come out at any hour between 
midnight and reVeille, and so keep the guard on 
tenterhooks, and make the tour as hard for them 
as I could." 

" You would be no more eflicient for that," said 
Ralph, " for the men would hate you and not be 
as good soldiers under you." In the eight years of 
his service he had learned something besides the 
infliction of discipline ; he had learned to amelio- 
rate it. 

They went by all the hidden lanes and back 
ways of the station, seeking out the sentinels who 
were posted wherever there was stealable property. 
Here and there a lamp flickered as it drank the 
dregs of its oil, and cast a small square of yellow 
light on their pathway. Overhead, the stars were 
4 



50 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

shining with the unflinching intensity of eyes that 
had looked upon all time, would endure to all eter- 
nity. There was strength and serenity in their 
lighting, Spurbridge, looking up at them for an 
instant, was impressed by their untemporal qualit3\ 
He was earthly ; they were beyond him. But 
there were men more conversant with spiritual 
things than he. 

" What do you suppose a man like Father Bru- 
gan sees in the stars ? " 

Kalph was silent a moment before he ventured 
any reply, and then he prefaced it with an unplea- 
sant laugh. "What do you suppose he sees in 
those other stars, the eyes of Miss Lydia Ger- 
rish ? " he asked. 

" Good heavens, Ralph ! " exclaimed Spurbridge. 
" What do you mean by that? " 

" Oh, nothing." 

" Why, he is a priest ! " continued Spurbridge. 

" Primarily, he is a man," returned Ralph, as 
though that was decisive. 

" But think of his life, his education ! " 

"Oh, pshaw!" Ralph burst forth. "What's 
education ! I thought we settled that once." And 
then he added to himself, thoughtfully, "I don't 
suppose he can help it, any more than another." 

Spurbridge was without experience, but he had 
sense sufficient to take no notice of this remark. 



Ill 



It might have been a month later that Ealph 
one day forcibly drew Spur bridge from an ancient 
text-book on electrics that had been dug from 
among the forgotten volumes of the post library, 
and said to him : 

" How should you like to take a hunting trip 
with me ? " 

Spurbridge looked up at him -with sparkling 
eyes. " There is no question of ' how,' " said he, 
" except of how soon we can do it. You think the 
colonel will let us go ? " 

" Dead sure," Ralph replied. " It's the middle 
of November now, and there's so little to be done 
in garrison that we're not needed. If we go out 
for twenty days and bring back a wagon load of 
deer and turkey and one thing or another, the 
whole garrison will take it as a delicate attention. 
I have often noticed that a haunch of venison is 
quite acceptable, even to those who have no taste 
for the hunt." 

" What shall we need for equipment ? " Spur- 
bridge asked. For he was theoretical rather than 
practical in all matters relating to the field. 



52 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

" A six-mule Avagon and the buckboard, a Sibley 
and a wall-tent, rifles and cartridges galore, and 
seven or eight good men picked from your com- 
pany and mine ; a double allowance of blankets, 
and a few trifling attentions to the commissariat. 
Do you like the outlook? " 

" Indeed I do," said Spurbridge, warmly. " I'm 
stupid, cooped up as I have been in garrison. 
Let's get off soon as we can." 

There proved no insuperable obstacles to the 
trip. Indeed, the applications for leave went 
through with such celerity that there seemed a 
possibility of the colonel being in a hurry for his 
venison. As a fact, being a soldier of consider- 
able acumen, he was gratified that his young offi- 
cers should desire to get out of the post and rough 
it a little, even in a peaceful sort of way. Spur- 
bridge, being new, had no knowledge of plainscraft 
or the features of the country. He could not fail 
to be made a better soldier by the trip, and more- 
over, Ralph was an excellent instructor in these 
matters of the camp. As for Ralph himself. Col- 
onel Gerrish had talked with his cajotain, Lyndon, 
and they had decided between them that it would 
be a saving grace to get him away from the asso- 
ciations of the town and saloon for a little wliile. 
He was inclined to run recklessly wild, and Colonel 
Gerrish, who understood and appreciated his sol- 
dierly qualities, had no desire to see him run un- 
checked to the verge of a court-martial. So Cap- 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 53 

tain Lyndon had cleverly suggested the trip to 
Ealph as a means of education for Spurbridge, in 
whom, he said, Ealph appeared to take an inter- 
est. Ralph responded pleasantly after a character- 
istic fling about his own need for a change of 
scene, and sought out Spurbridge. And their 
preparations proceeded as expeditiously as though 
they had received an imperative order to take the 
field without loss of time. 

How they dwelt upon those preparations — so 
careful, thoughtful, happily anticipative ! Will 
Spurbridge ever forget the hurried trips to the 
little town where together they chose fishing-tackle 
on the bare chance of catfish and bass in the pools 
of some stream they might pass ? Or the evening 
hours when they loaded shells, and in thought 
brought down all manner of desirable fowl with 
unfailing accui'acy of aim ? The quick purchase 
of rough clothing, and the imperative demands 
on the commissary for canned vegetables and milk, 
for bacon, coffee, onions. . . . 

Never to be forgotten. The events passed 
quickly before his impressionable mind. In his 
smiling state the comments of the garrison were 
like congratulations. He was a fortunate man. 
And when the bright morning of departure came, 
and they whirled out of the post behind the pep- 
perish buckboard mules in a translucent cloud of 
golden dust of their own raising, while happy 
good-byes and wishes were waved from every 



54 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

porch ou the line, he lost all sense of the per- 
spective of life and felt that he had come thus far 
through the world solely to enjoy this bliss. It 
was so great that, being in the plane of the pres- 
ent, it shut off his view. It would not be until 
later, when he should be able to look back upon 
it, that he would discover in it but one of the fleet- 
ing incidents of that broader and higher journey 
upon which he was perforce engaged. 

There had been short tramps, and even extended 
fishing trips, about the Fort before, but nothing 
that approximated to the importance of this. So 
it was that the whole became charming in its nov- 
elty, and Spurbridge found a delight as of newness 
even in the bits of country with which he was 
familiar, and over which they passed the first day. 
There was the occasional glimpse of the creek, like 
silver in the sun, but which he knew a closer view 
would betray in its slate and brown dulness ; the 
gentle sweep of the prairie, having limitless ex- 
tent in which to complete its pre-determined bil- 
low and to return to itself again — as though God 
had set no bounds to its broadness ; the red and 
yellow of the bare earth where fierce rains had 
worn deep cuts and winding channels ; the sternly 
simple outlines of mesa after mesa, bearing on 
their heads but a repetition of the levels from 
which they rose ; the low, thorny bush of the 
prairie, ornamented here and there with a sj^ring- 
ing cactus, rising in distance to the dignity of 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 55 

mesquite that jingled its seed-pods against bare 
twigs in the November wind — and in a still more 
remote rank, by the creek's course, rising yet 
higher to the majesty of doubtful cottonwoods, 
yellowed pecans, and dark green, restful live oaks. 

Of what a pearly tint was the sky — that blue sky, 
hanging in a dome so far above them ! It was un- 
conscious of the fresh breeze that blew upon the 
cheek of the prairie, imparting a weather-worn 
ruddiness. Occasionally, as though dropping from 
the unsounded vault of it, a bird would spread its 
tranquil pinions into sight ; others, distinctly earthy 
in their aspirations, skimmed the lower ether with 
a motive — ducks, swiftly winging along the course 
of the creek with an eye to choice feeding grounds ; 
hawks, circling tirelessly far above the red-brown 
herbage of the land till they should sj^y some weak, 
defenceless creature, and then like a flash descend- 
ing upon it, fiercely relentless, bear it away to a 
red feast. Spurbridge's young heart was torn with 
pity for the terrified small beasts so captured, and 
his hand sought his gun that he might put an end 
to the predatory bird. But then he desisted, for 
even they did seek their meat of God. 

The driver flicked the mouse-colored mules with 
the whip as a caution not to be weary in well doing. 
They merely whisked their tufted tails and paid no 
further attention ; the gait was satisfactory, and 
they knew it. They passed a steep hillside where 
the thin soil had washed down, leaving the color- 



56 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

ing of yellows exposed in brilliancy. The same 
color lay on pools of water like oil. " Bog iron ore 
—2 Fe.,033 H„0 " — said Spurbridge, nodding at it 
in qnick recollection of liis laboratory days at West 
Point. " Great Scott ! haven't you forgotten that 
yet?" asked Ralph. And then both laughed, for 
both were free and happy, and were riding away 
from care. It is only at such times that the ran- 
dom recollection of old perplexities renders them 
enjoyable. 

The mules trotted docilely onward, and the 
wheels rolled smoothly over a road from which the 
turf was scarcely worn. No. more dust arose as a 
pillar to mark their progress. The road became a 
track, and then a trail, and led them between two 
high and rugged cliffs, through Apache Pass. 
There had been good, vigorous human blood on 
the ground beneath their wheels many a time in 
the past, but it had dried in the sun or sunk deep 
into the earth, and not even a bluebell blossomed 
to mark the place. It was rather as though a blight 
had fallen on this, a favorite ambush spot of the 
Apaches in the days when stages travelled the long 
route of the thirty-second parallel. Even at the 
time when Ralph and Spurbridge rode by in care- 
less security, it would have been possible to pick up 
there a slivered bone from which a skilled anato- 
mist would have reconstructed you a human skele- 
ton. 

Then they rattled echoingly through the gorge 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 67 

over the cracked fragments of rock that bestrewed 
it, and conquered the hill beyond. From its sum- 
mit they looked away over a very basin of brown 
herbage, marked through and through at intervals 
with finely drawn lines of wire fence, stretching off 
into perspectives of marvellous length. Far in the 
depth of the view, were live oaks ; and Ralph, point- 
ing them out, clapped Spurbridge on the shoulder. 

" That's where we make the first camp ! " he an- 
nounced, in glee. It was as though he anticipated 
finding a quarter-section of Paradise staked out 
there, to which he should be free and welcome. 

Spurbridge looked forward to the place with 
more than common interest, and when they reached 
it he jumped from the buckboard and stretched his 
legs in a quick turn about the selected ground. 
It was a httle grove of live oaks from which the 
encroaching undergrowth was kept clear by a swift 
succession of camping parties. It was twenty-three 
miles from the Fort, and was always the first camp 
for parties going out, the last for those coming in. 
A small tributary creek flowed by, giving water 
for the animals ; and in the depth of the grove 
was a cold spring of the clearest, purest water, 
made famous through all the land by the plains- 
people. For the baked, solid earth was like a rock 
and there were none to smite it with a rod ; so that 
infrequent springs were known and named and re- 
garded as oases on a desert trail. 

There was a grim old sergeant to exercise imme- 



58 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

diate supervision of the party ; for discipline was 
relaxed and the expedition was military only in 
equipment. The officers would hunt, not govern. 
And there was a spruce young corporal who had 
gotten his chevrons because he wrote a clear, round 
hand, was temperate, and presented always a neat, 
clerky appearance. In his short experience he had 
never been off the military reservation, and sleep- 
ing on the ground with only a blanket 'twixt him 
and the stars was a novelty. And there was Kil- 
leen to drive the buckboard, and Robinson for the 
six-mule team. And Gavin, who had satisfactor- 
ily served his apprenticeship in the company 
kitchen, was there to cook for the entire party. 
And for the rest, they were just men of common 
abilities. They would pitch and lower tents, bring 
water for the cook, gather dry wood for the fires, 
smoke their pipes, crack their rough jokes, and 
carry a gun over some square miles of territory 
daily in an unremitting search for game. They 
were good shots, but that was nothing unusual ; 
being soldiers, the rifle was to be supposed an 
intimate friend. And they made to one another a 
twofold promise : to speedily eat all the bacon in 
sight, and to supply in its place more venison than 
would suffice for a regiment. 

With the eagerness of schoolboys to be about the 
businesses of their lives, Ralph and Spurbridge 
took fowling pieces and waded through the adjoin- 
ing thickets of scrub and undergroAvth. They were 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 59 

rewarded with a few quail, just enougli to give 
their supper a fiavor of the uncivilized — that tow- 
ard which they were so gladly tending. And after 
that came pipes during the quick descent of night, 
while the mules inclined their long ears for the 
conversation of their human companions by the 
camp-fire, and the air was filled with the confused 
mingling of nature's whispering voices — the chirp 
of a belated bird, the rustling of leaves and rub- 
bing of long grasses, the wimple of flowing water ; 
while overhead the stars burned with as gentle and 
velvety a light as the coals of the dying camp-fire. 
They came nearer to one here than in the Fort, 
where the little cluster of houses created a repell- 
ent atmosphere ; and yet they were sufiiciently far 
away to retain the dignity of their eternal being. 
They were familiar with nature, but not with men. 
They even looked at themselves with satisfaction 
in the still pools, and allowed the little dancing rip- 
ples in swift water to cover themselves with the 
quicksilver of broken rays of light ; but this was 
not for the eyes of men. 

And when the pipes were smoked out and the 
last whiff of their fragrance had been dissipated on 
the soft breath of evening, each man rolled himself 
in his blanket alongside his chosen chum and slept. 
That was what it was to be healthy, vigorous ani- 
mals without a care, free to enjoy the holiday in a 
hearty way that would rejoice in physical fatigue 
for the sake of the succeeding pleasant recupera- 



60 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

tion. All tilings that came to tliem were good ; 
and if they accepted them with no conscious thanks- 
giving, it was because they were as other animals 
and revelled in the harmony of consecutive grains 
of star dust without troubling themselves about the 
why and wherefore. 

But the early bed hour did not make the night 
long. With the first suspicion of lighting in the 
gray east, Killeen and Robinson were up, measur- 
ing out grain to their capricious charges. Gavin 
blew up the ashes of the night before in a search 
for coals, and having found some, put on fine splint- 
ers and made a blaze. In a wonderfully short 
time he had coffee ready for the quart cups, with 
fried bacon and hot camp bread. Kalph was happy 
to find he could take such unrefined food without 
internal rebellion. Spurbridge devoured it un- 
thinkingly ; it was good. And then the mules 
were discovered hitched to the wagon and buck- 
board ; the blankets were rolled and strapped ; the 
tents — they had not been used — were stowed in ; 
and so, with all the equipage in shape, the ser- 
geant saluted Ralph and announced : 

" All is ready, sir ! " 

" Yery well ; let us start." 

"Forward! March!" roared the sergeant, in- 
ured by service to the form of command and unable 
to ]nake a move without it. 

Then the little procession issued from its covert 
just as the yet hidden sun shot up a ray that 



02{ THE OFFENSIVE 61 

painted with orange the under side of a cloud, an- 
nouncing that he was of a cheerful disposition and 
would be with them soon uj)on the road. Very 
good comjDauy was the sun and very welcome ; for 
the November morning had enough chilliness to 
make the men step about crisply, or hang with 
unsurpassed devotion on the windward side of the 
fire. And he came over the hill in his haste and 
met them half-Avay up the ascent they climbed from 
the wood. 

Tliree days they travelled thus to the south and 
east, seeing perhaj)s three habitations in that time. 
Kalph grumbled regretfully. " The country's get- 
ting too settled. We must go farther awa}', out 
into the section from fence and farmer free. This 
will never do." The old sergeant saluted in defer- 
ential acquiescence. " Forward ! " he roared each 
morning and the buckboard would whisk lightly 
away, while the six tall mules lumbered after with 
the big blue wagon. They made twenty or twenty- 
five miles each day, and camped at night by the 
creek, from Avhich they drew a few fine fish. The 
days were usually fair and the nights clear ; but 
occasionally the heavens hung low and dark, and 
rain showers came whistling on the sharp gusts. 
It was all one to the party ; they had invited them- 
selves to pot-luck with nature. 

The country was bare save for sagebrush and 
scrubby, nondescript things that cowered close to 
the earth — natural skulkers, afraid to attain re- 



62 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

spectable stature, but ever holding forth hooked 
thorns and claws to the injury of clothing and the 
irritation of hapless flesh. Sometimes the road 
led through thickets so dense that thoughts of am- 
bush clung to the mind ; and again, it descended 
into ravines with banks so high and steej) that 
ro^ies were fastened to the up-hill side of the 
wagon, and the whole party surged on them to pre- 
vent capsizing. Then up the other side, where stop- 
ping meant disaster, and they chorused anathe- 
mas upon the affrighted ears of the struggling 
mules, urging them to the top ; a stop for breath, 
and then on again to the place Ralph had selected 
for the camp. These were days of satisfaction, 
because of their untrammelled quality ; but they 
were also days of suspense, for no game had been 
shot, or even sighted, and apparently they might 
follow the road forever, and meet no change. 
They had not gone into the wilderness for this. 

On the third day they reached the head of the 
creek. Here was the ruin of an old-time stage 
ranch — a one-story building of limestone, walls 
very thick, windows merely narrow slits. The 
roof was broken in, and the flooring had gone to 
feed camp-fires. But the outer walls presented 
marks of interest for one so unaccustomed as 
Spurbridge. His joy Avas that of an explorer, and 
when he discovered on the stone sundry leaden 
smearings, he called Ralph's attention to them 
with such a thrill along his veins as one feels upon 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 63 

an old battle-field ; the horrors had departed, but 
the atmosphere created by conflict still remained. 

" Those are marks of bullets. The place has 
stood more than one fierce siege," he said. He 
rubbed his fingers almost lovingly over the old 
scars. Deej) in his heart he wished he might 
have stood among the defenders on that past day, 
disregarding savage yells of fury and rattling thud 
of bullets in the raging joy of conflict. But he 
did not venture to expose this sentiment to Ralph, 
who stood looking calmly at the shots, and even 
scaling oflf a little adhering lead with the blade of 
his knife. 

" Yes, they are marks of bullets, sure enough," 
he said at length. " So are these." He stejjped 
off a few paces and fired his revolver twice against 
the wall. "See any diflerence in them?" he 
asked. 

"No," said Spin-bridge, after a minute examina- 
tion; "they're just like the others." He looked 
up with a calm air of comprehension. " I sup- 
pose you will tell me to spare my thoughts of a 
siege — that these shots have all been fired by 
practical jokers ; won't you ? " 

"Not so bad as that," said Ralph, relenting of 
half his purpose. "I have been here at odd times 
during the past eight years, and I assure you that 
I looked for bullet-marks at first, just as you have 
to-day. The only difference is, my search was not 
so abundantly rewarded as yours." 



G4 OiV THE OFFENSIVE 

" And perhaps you made a few marks tlien, as 
now ? " suggested Spurbridge. 

Ralpli shrugged his shoulders. " Well, was not 
that a delicate attention toward future travellers? 
I knew exactly the interest they would take in the 
spot. To be sure, but few people pass this way ; 
but just think of the clergyman who dies rejoicing 
in the belief that he, has saved even one sinner ! " 

Spurbridge turned his attention to the sky and 
whistled softly, as though in disapproval. 

" I don't want to outclass myself," Ralph hastily 
added. " Perhaps you will think there's mighty 
little resemblance between any clergyman and me, 
but let me tell you we both mean all right. And 
now I'll shoAv you just what I did find." 

He led the way through a tangle of bushes to a 
doorway that gave upon the north. " The corral 
was over there," he said, indicating a level space 
before them. " This door led to it. These splin- 
tered holes in the casing were never made by re- 
volver bullets ; they came from old fifty bores. 
And these blotches where lead has been and has 
fallen off, leaving a blue mould behind — these 
were made when gentlemen like ourselves were 
nof firing guns for fun. They stand for profes- 
sional attainments. And once, as the records 
show, this ranch was attacked by Apaches who 
got into the corral, stampeded the horses, and as 
this door was opened that the corral hands might 
rush out, fired in, killing the defenders. They 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 66 

euded by looting the place. Had we been here then 
we Avouldn't be talking of it so calmly in the flesh 
now. We would be serving with that big army — 

' Who lie, neglected, far away 
From BeDDj Havens, O ! ' " 

He droned out the lines to the tune of that tra- 
ditional army song, and abruptly walked away 
from the place. " Makes me feel gooberish! " he 
declared, with a shiver. 

Spurbridge followed with a strange mixture of 
elation and depression in his Keart. He was long- 
ing for experiences, being young and unbuffeted. 
" The best of army life on the plains seems to be 
done away with," he complained. " The stages 
are gone, the Indians are herded on to reserva- 
tions, and we have nothing to do but sit idle 
where once w^ere stirring times. I feel as if I had 
come on the stage after the play was over, and the 
lights were out, and the actors had gone home for 
the night." 

" So ? " remarked Ralph, elevating his eye- 
brows at him. " But while the play is on, there 
is more fun down in front. And when you read 
the newspaper criticisms of the performance you 
may be glad you didn't have a part yourself." 

" Oh, I know that," Spurbridge hastened to say. 
" It isn't for pleasure, but for the sake of the ex- 
perience, that I want it." 

''Well," said Ealpli, reflectively, "after all, it is 



60 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

the confectionery of soldiering. It has unpleas- 
ant features — but it's what we live for ! " 

" I believe you," Spurbridge assented, " and 
that's why I feel so useless to be sitting in garri- 
son, theorizing, or even drilling a stray set of 
fours." 

" Well, you're not lagging superfluous," Ealj^h 
told him, reassuringly. " There's always a chance, 
and a pretty good one is brewing now, I'm told, 
up at the agency. Funny idea, to have an agency 
and no troops in force within six days march of 
it ! But that's the trader's idea ; he don't want to 
be interfered with." 

" What have you heard ? " SiDurbridge asked, 
with quick interest. 

" Nothing official ; that's why I put any faith in 
it. The bucks are getting insolent, and they are 
too well armed for any peaceful purpose. The 
trader has been selling 'em guns and cartridges as 
freely as though there was nothing to fear. He 
makes a pot of money out of it, and that's all he 
or any other Indian trader cares. They don't 
concern themselves about the troops who come 
after and get the benefit of the ammunition." 

There was a cold, angry light in his eyes as he 
spoke, but Spurbridge was so exultant he did not 
notice it. For himself, he was almost ready to 
thank the trader, he so longed to fulfil the purpose 
of his being. Ealpli knew better ; he had seen 
some Indian warfare, and understood the matter. 



ox THE OFFENSIVE 67 

" We wou't hear anything official before the 
spring," Ralph con tinned. " They won't go on 
the Avarpath before settled weather again, and that 
will snit the official gait. Perhaps they won't, 
even then, bnt I shall get my feet in marching 
shape jnst as though I had already received or- 
ders." 

They crossed the trickling stream to the camp, 
that had been established on the higher bank of 
the opposite side. " Never pitch camp on the nigh 
side of a stream," Ralph had laid down to Spur- 
bridge as an axiom, " Always cross at once, if 
you've got to cross. There's nothing likelier than 
a cloudburst in the mountains, and then you can't 
get over for days. Likewise, camp on high ground, 
so you may not be swept away in the rise." 

The strength of the party had been occupied 
since their arrival in soaking water-kegs that had 
been but ballast thus far, and in filling them from 
the stream ; for this was the last running water 
they would find in a long, weary stretch of coun- 
try. Here again was something new for Spur- 
bridge. He anticipated the many dry camps now 
to be made with pleasure, and looked forward with 
satisfaction to days when water would be doled out 
in small measures. There was a suggestion of 
hardship in the thought, and he sprang to grasp it. 

The next morning they turned abruptly away 
from the valley of the watercourse, and began to 
climb the gentle, interminable ascent. Mesquite 



G8 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

of large growth stood about their way. As they 
left it slowly behind they entered on a region cov- 
ered with thick brown grass, with here and there 
close tangles of reddish scrubby bushes. Climb- 
ing one swell after another, they mounted ever 
higher and higher, until at last they had left be- 
hind them every reminder of civilization. No wire 
fences barred the road, or ran parallel with it to 
the extreme of sight. It was the free range they 
had entered upon — free as God made it in the 
right of animals that run and browse ; man had 
set no stamp upon it, made no selfish claim. Wave 
upon wave of land lay about them, billowing away 
beyond the horizon, so that no matter what knoll 
they climbed to look abroad, they seemed always 
at the bottom of an immense basin, the sides of 
which rose gently in symmetrical undulations to 
meet the escalloped sky. Spurbridge looked afar, 
and wondered, and looked again. He filled his 
capacious lungs Avith the breeze that swept from 
nowhere to the very confines of this incomprehen- 
sible expanse. He listened, and the stillness of the 
plains smote upon his ear. Things temporal had 
passed away, and there was nothing in all the 
world but this, and the mystery of omnipotence 
that filled space with its eloquent silence. 

They rode that day till they had gone as far as 
they wanted to, and then they pitched camp. 
Here was more independence to thrill Spurbridge's 



ON THE OFFEJSISIVE 69 

heart. No longer did they liave to consider com- 
binations of wood, water, and grass in selecting 
camps. Grass was everj-where, free to all ; light 
wood could be had for the gathering ; and water 
was in the wagon. The}' consulted the desires of 
none but themselves. This was a great change 
from garrison life, Spurbridge said to himself ; 
there the lash of discipline was always paraded, 
and there were various conventionalities to be ob- 
served. That made him restive — that and the en- 
forced idleness of days upon days. But here he 
could feel that he was his own master, and respon- 
sible to no one under heaven ; and he did not think 
he was any the worse for it. 

■ He had a startled moment when he came upon 
Gavin serving out water — so much for the mules, 
so much for coffee, so much for bread he must bake, 
none for the toilet. Well, Spurbridge reflected in 
another moment, why should they wash their faces 
and hands ? They were on intimate terms with the 
earth just then ; sleeping on it all night, walking 
on it all day ; the more they could get of it, the 
better. Evidently, it was not from economy, but 
because of the eternal fitness of things, that they 
abstained from more ablution than was necessary. 
They had gone into camp at the base of a con- 
siderable elevation ; and when the mid-afternoon 
meal was eateu, Ralph and Spurbridge climbed it. 
It stood like a sentinel in the gateway to the land 
of game, toward which they had been journeying. 



70 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

Beyond lay a great plain, yellow in tlie level light 
of the setting smi, barred by long bine shadows 
leading toward them from clumps of bushes that 
were magnified into groves ; and scattered over it 
were great herds of antelope feeding in security. 
Spurbridge had never seen these pretty fawn-and- 
white-marked creatures, and he watched them a 
long time through the field-glass, while Ralph read 
him a lecture on their habits. Half the worry was 
now over; they had found game, and there re- 
mained but to get it. Where antelope were in such 
numbers, there must be deer. They could now be- 
gin the fatiguing pleasures for which they had 
come. 

Thereafter they wandered at will, camping a 
few days in likely localities and scouring the hills, 
plains, and valleys with the rifle, then moving to a 
new choice. Ralph regulated movements so they 
were never more than one day's long march to- 
and-from water, and when the kegs ran dry, Rob- 
inson would assemble his team and go for a fresh 
supply. From each camp as a centre, the hunters 
would radiate on routes decided the night before, 
and generally brought in something to add to the 
store of choice meats that the cold nights allowed 
them to accumulate. They would be started well 
out before sunrise, when the white, frosted grass 
snapped under foot ; then the early deer, going to 
browse at the thickets, would be seen at a distance 
in the rising light, and if fingers were not too 



ox THE OFFENSIVE 71 

numb to govern the rifle, the day's search would 
end then and there. Then would succeed a long 
afternoon of dozing on the fragrant earth with 
pipe and book, or perhaps a game of cards. The 
happiness of the party was almost unreasonably 
great. 

On a morning when Ealph had made an early 
start, he was rewarded by sight of deer before he 
had walked a mile. It was quite beyond his des- 
erts, for his thoughts were far away at the Fort, 
and he had used no caution in his progress. He 
had been thinking of Lydia Gerrish, and not even 
the brown objects moving about on the hillside, a 
long shot away, could altogether banish her from 
his mind. He had no heart for stalking; so he 
secured a steady rest, and risking the distance, 
tired. He had the satisfaction of seeing his tar- 
get drop ; but there was no chance for another 
shot. The unharmed deer took to their heels, and 
disappeared over the hill. 

Unelated, he walked swiftly over the short half- 
mile, and approached his game. The animal was 
not dead, but it had been struck in the backbone, 
and was unable to rise or to offer any resistance. 
It could only lie there and watch its human foe 
coming nearer and nearer. Ealph noted its de- 
fenceless condition almost mechanically, for his 
thoughts were still with Lydia. He talked of her 
to no one ; he only thought of her to himself. 
And here was this pretty creature at his feet, his 



72 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

victim — and he saw with a pang of self-reproach 
that it was a doe. Ah, there was a double pity ! 
The doe's eye was upon him, glistening with agony, 
full of terror. He was sorry for the poor thing, 
and regretted his bullet. He had never felt like 
this before, though many deer had fallen to him ; 
why should he now ? " Lydia ! Lydia ! " chimed 
through his brain. That was the reason. Why 
was he so far from the post ? " Lydia ! " "Why 
did he feel such keen pity ? " Lydia ! " 

At least, the deer should suffer no longer. The 
only tribute his pity could offer was a quick death. 
He stepped resolutely up, knelt, and drew the head 
back to expose the throat. He held the knife 
ready for the cut 

And then the creature's mortal agony and terror 
triumphed over the paralyzing effect of its wound. 
The eyes assumed a human intensity, it made a 
convulsive effort to rise and flee, and finding this 
impossible, gave forth a moan so anguish-laden, so 
searching in its poignancy of pain and fear, that it 
might have issued from the lips of a racked human 
being in the moment of dissolution. 

" My God ! " Kalph cried, with a start. He 
looked furtively around, for in that moment he 
felt like a murderer. 

But only for a moment. Then, leaning over 
with desperate fierceness, he caught the pretty 
head again and forced it back till the lines of the 
throat were tense ; and in there he jDlunged his 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 73 

knife, with the license of a thirst for blood. It 
flowed in a torrent, and the blade drank.- A short, 
racking moment, and the doe w'as become inani- 
mate. It was food — for men ? No ; for God's 
creatures. Ealph looked upon his handiwork 
with loathing ; the smell of the warm blood as- 
sailed him nauseatingly. He arose and hastened 
from the place of murder. 

" Lydia ! " he murmured as he went. Until the 
deer uttered its moan he had not reflected that, 
equally with Lydia herself, had God given it li- 
cense to live, and that the license might be re- 
voked as suddenly in one case as in the other. 

"When he reached camp, late in the afternoon, 
he was rallied on the result of his day's work. 

"What have tjou got?" Spurbridge exulted, 
openly. 

" Oh, nothing. I had a shot over here, but it 
didn't amount to anything. Too far away, I 
guess." 

" A fine hunter you are ! I got three to-daj'- — 
and there they hang by the heels ! See them ? " 

Ralph looked at them vacantly, and smiled, and 
said they were fine. He remembered to congrat- 
ulate Spurbridge on his ability and luck. He was 
not pleased with his own. 

Once, in the course of their wandering, they 
camped in a canon-head where a stream of clear 
water gurgled from a cleft in the rocks. There 



74 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

were trees of prominence about, and along the rill, 
even in that late November, there was a ribbon of 
green. Spurbridge took pleasure in the place and 
would have lingered there, lotus eating ; but Ralph 
insisted on a short camp, the grim sergeant roared 
his command, and the party hastened away. 

Before they went Spurbridge heard the men 
grumbling over some service superstition as they 
filled the water-kegs. He listened with surprise 
and a sort of contempt, for he had no j)atience 
with the black ignorance that gave rise to it. 

" That is foolishness you are talking," he said, 
petulantly, 

" Yes, sir," they replied, deferentially, as sol- 
diers should. Then, " You know this spring, 
sir i 

" No, but that has nothing to do with it. It is 
good water, and we can't get too much of it." 

" Beg your pardon, sir, but there's been parties 
here that got too much of it. It brings bad luck." 

" Oh, nonsense ! " he exclaimed, impatiently. 
" AVhat sort of talk is that for men ? Fill the 
kegs, and let us hear no more of it ! " 

Then he had Avalked away with a crankily im- 
portant step, and made some severe reflections on 
the intelligence of the average enlisted men, that 
should induce among them such superstition. No 
educated man — no ofticer — could countenance it. 
He did not even think worth Avliile to tell Ralph 
of it. 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 75 

Occasionally, on the marcli tliroiigli some nar- 
row canon, tliey would come upon a sheep herder 
driving his flocks to new pasturage. Kalph looked 
upon these encroachers with an unfavorable eye, 
sharing the prejudice of the cattlemen without 
their reason. And once they happened upon a 
herder's camp that had taken on an air of perma- 
nence, in that a well had been sunk and a bucket 
and windlass rigged. There were w^omen also, to 
increase the home sense, and as the hunters drove 
up they were busy at tubs over an unsightly wash- 
ing. They were sun- and wind-worn, and v^iih 
the freedom of the plains they relinquished work 
to speak with these chance-passers, glad that the 
solemn loneliness of their lives should be broken 
in upon. They recommended the well water ; 
gave of it freely ; were sorry the men were away 
with the herds ; and as they talked, " dipped " — 
chewing a small stick till the end was swollen like 
a brush, then dii^piug it in a jar of snuff and rub- 
bing the powder on their gums and yellowed teeth 
with relish. 

" What do you do to kill time ? " Kalph asked 
them. 

"Oh, we're busy enough," they said. "We 
don't have time to get lonesome." 

"Do you like it here ? " 

" Course ! " In some surprise. " We don't want 
anything we haven't got. Money wouldn't do any 
good here, so we don't Avant that ; and we haven't 



76 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

got any money, so we don't want to go where we 
would need it." 

" You miglit earn it," Spurbridge suggested. 

They replied with fine scorn, "Oh, that 
wouldn't be worth while ! " 

After driving in silence a little time, Ealph 
turned to Spurbridge curiously. "What do you 
think of that ? " said he. 

" I admire the spirit immensely," Spurbridge 
replied, " but I shouldn't care for the same thing 
myself." 

" No," assented Ralph. " There the savage is 
in the ascendant. We're only playing we are that 
kind, out here on this trip ; just giving our sub- 
dued savage a little exercise. Directly, w^e shall 
go back to the post and bottle him up for another 
space. We may admire those Avho scorn the com- 
forts and customs of the civilized world — but we 
can't do that sort of thing ourselves." 

" We can't," said Spurbridge, as though the ad- 
mission hurt. " We have been thinking of other 
things too long. I suspect," he added, "those 
people are making fun of us now behind our 
backs ; they think we are amateurs where they are 
professionals." 

" Yes, if they think at all," said Ealph. 

" Ah, that's it ! " Spurbridge grasped at the idea. 
" ' If they think at all.' That's the main differ- 
ence between people who live in houses and those 
who dwell in tents — the thinkinsf." 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 77 

Ralpli looked at him quizzically. " And we sol- 
diers who inhabit the tented field — where do we 
come in ? Do we think, or act ? " 

" Think ! " Spurbridge roared, bursting into 
sudden rage at his narroM'^ experience. " By gad, 
Ralph, there isn't any relation between us and 
the tented field ! I might as well be a dummy for 
all the service I am likely to see — notwithstand- 
ing yoiu" Indians at the agency ! " 

" Oh, don't attribute them to me ! " Ralph pro- 
tested, lightly. " The trader's more responsible 
than I." A little farther along the road, he said, 
disconnectedly : 

" It is a nuisance, isn't it ? " 

"What's that?" asked Spurbridge, at a loss. 
The thread of discourse had slipped away from 
him. 

" Thinking." 

" Oh, yes ; especially when one thinks about 
one's self," he added, profoundly. 

"Ah, that's something not to be spoken of," 
said Ralph, hastily. " When one gets old enough 
to really think, one is generally so well acquainted 
with one's self that propriety forbids the publica- 
tion of such thought." 

" You have found it so ? " 

" Never mind. What I mean is the mechanical 
operation of thinking. Didn't it ever strike you 
as an awkward machine, lacking modern improve- 
ments and development ? We can't do anything 



78 ON THE OF B' ENDIVE 

witliout thinking, and it takes some people a 
mighty long time to make up their minds." A 
smile flickered about his mouth as he saw Spur- 
bridge's puzzled air, but he maintained a serious 
attitude. 

" I knoAv," said Spurbridge, at length. " But 
what are you going to do about it ? " 

" Just grumble," said Ralph, resignedly. " In- 
stinct's the thing, though. Women and all the 
higher animals have it. It is only man that grubs 
along, and thinks. Instinct drove those people 
we just saw to pitch their camp under a hill 
near a grove, and to discover water signs so they 
could dig a well intelligently. We might have 
reasoned about it a year, and then have been all 
wrong." 

"I am pleased to have you put woman above 
man," said Spurbridge, in a caustic tone. 

" Why ? Don't you agree with me? " Ralph de- 
manded, almost indignantly. " She is 'waj^ ahead 
of us in intelligence, and if 3'ou'd stop reasoning 
about it you'd see it, too. She never reasons, ex- 
cept as a compliment to man ; she doesn't have to. 
She has an instinctive knowledge of what is right 
and Avliat is wrong, of what is expedient and what 
is not." 

"Why does she make mistakes, then?" de- 
manded Sixirbridge. 

" She doesn't, except when she tries to reason — • 
which is really a lost art with her. She has been 



OJV THE OFFENSIVE 79 

evoluted beyond it. Mistakes, eh ? If it wasn't 
for that millstone, Man, she'd be all right," 

"Well," grumbled Spiirbridge, unwillingly, 
" there may, be a grain of truth in what you say ; 
and when the higher education does really get in 
its w^ork, perhaps she will rise to the plane you've 
set apart for her." 

" Nonsense," declared Ralph, getting out the 
field-glass to scan a valley just opening to the 
view, " it won't raise her to it. It will only give 
her a chance to prove that she's always been right 
there." 

Their wanderings Avere well ordered through 
Ralph's knowledge of plainscraft. He had been 
over the land many times before, and not always 
on so peaceful an errand as the present. Spur- 
bridge took no note other than to wonder from 
time to time which way was north, and to estimate 
vaguely the miles they had come. They moved 
on an arc of a large curve, thoroughly scouting all 
the country lying within it ; so it was that after 
many days they found themselves camped in a 
grove near a small stream of clear Avater, and no 
more than a day's march from the Fort. Decem- 
ber had come upon them, and but three days were 
left them of the twenty that had been granted. 

Ralph and Spurbridge sat by the creek, nibbling 
at water-cress and saying, "Now, shall we return 
to the Fort at once, or stay here in camp till 



80 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

the last moment of our leave ? " Their faces and 
hands were red with exposure, and their lips, 
which had cracked, bled, and swelled with fierce 
wdnds and alkali dust, had tougheued in their 
natural dimensions. Were seventeen days of sav- 
agery enough, or would they have the twenty ? 
Had either reasons for going or staying that were 
unknown to the other ? They were settling the 
question. 

" The commissary is rimning pretty low," said 
Ralph, deprecatingly. " The condensed milk is 
gone, the sugar is gone, we are reduced to taking 
our rank coffee noir." 

" I can stand that," Spurbridge replied, cheer- 
fully, " but I'm getting tired of a meat diet. 
There's been no flour in camp for a week." 

" Be easy. Gavin took a side of bacon over to 
a ranch he discovered somewhere about here, and 
swapped it for a bag of flour." 

Spurbridge grinned through his bristling growth 
of youthful beard as the objections Avere cleared 
away. " Then I suppose we can stand it a couple 
of days yet, so far as appetite goes ? " he asked. 

"I should be willing to chance it," replied Ralph. 

They gathered more cress and chewed it reflec- 
tively. " For my part," said Spurbridge, "I have 
no real longing to get back to a succession of re- 
veilles and tattoos. I'm sick of my few little du- 
ties, and wouldn't care if I never took them up 
again. I have no objection to the Fort, consid- 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 81 

erecl as a fort, and I should like to get in touch 
with the world ; but if I could slip iu for half an 
hour and get the mail I would come away again 
gladly." 

" If we go, we go to stay," Ralph re^Dlied, de- 
jectedly. " There's no drawing baak, once you set 
foot in the colonel's dominions." 

"Well, how is it with yourself?" asked Spui-- 
bridge, at length, unwilling to decide the case for 
his superior officer. 

Ealph simulated indifference. " Oh, there are 
some reasons why I should like to get back," he 
said. 

" I suppose " Spurbridge halted sharply in 

his utterance. He had started to make a quasi 
jocose remark about the saloon's attraction for 
Ralph ; but he remembered that Ralph had not 
mentioned such matters during the trip — had ap- 
parently, by an effort, put them out of mind. " I 
suppose Father Brugan has been as constant iu 
attendance at the post as usual," he said, weakly. 
Ralph gave a nervous start. 

" I wish, Spurbridge," he said, a trifle stiffly, 
" you would forget a remark I let slip once about 
the priest, and — and certain stars, you know. It 
was very foolish, and I don't want to be reminded 
of it." 

"Why, certainly," Spurbridge replied, in sur- 
prise. " I wasn't thinking of that at all, Ralph — 
sometliing quite different." 
6 



82 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

"Oil, were yon?" Ralpli tried to laugli, but 
only cackled pitifully. " Well, I was guilty, you 
see, and fled wlien I wasn't chased. I had it on 
my mind — I always do ! In fact, old man, this 
trip hasn't clone for me all I hoped it would, and 
I'd like to get what benefit I can out of it. I don't 
want to go back." 

" I'm glad you don't," said Spurbridge, heartily. 
"I don't either. I don't care if I never go to 
parade again." 

"Oh, you mustn't get disgruntled," said Ealpli, 
trying to soothe him in turn. " You stay by it, 
and by and by it will get to be second nature to 
you, and you'll like it. Then you settle down, and 
— and — marry, and get to be a colonel in time for 
retirement. There's a future and a green old age 
for you ! " 

" I would recommend that you try your own 
medicine, Ralph," said Spurbridge, softly. He 
Avas feeling wonderfully friendly and confidential 
since Raljjh's tacit confession. 

Ralph made him no reply, so he reached out 
and grasped his hand. Ralph gave his a nervous 
wrench that pained him till he went to sleep ; then 
he looked out over the water, and bit his mus- 
tache. 

" Let's stay, Spurbridge," he whispered. " Stay 
as long as we can. The other — the other is so far 
away, so high above me, I can't stand in the pres- 
ence of it. Let's stay," he pleaded. 



ox THE OFFENSIVE 83 

" All right, old man ! " said Spurbridge, cheerily. 
"We'll stay till the last tap on the drum." He 
saw Gavin coming down to the creek for water, 
his serving-men having temporarily deserted him. 
" Oh-h, Gavin !" he called. " Make up some good 
biscuit to-night ! We'll live high on camp-fare for 
two days yet ! " 



IV 



Perhaps nothing wliatever is left of the Fort 
now; for it has become an abandoned post, and 
its good old pnlse-stirring name is dropped from 
the Army Register. But in the day of its glory — 
in the day when it was a point from which vic- 
tories were achieved — sweet bugle-notes rippled 
through the air, calling men to the instant per- 
formance of duties to which they had solemnly 
sworn themselves. There was constantly that un- 
dertone of solemnity about the army, in spite of 
all its dash and bravery and merry tunes ; it was 
all done in the fulfilment of vows. Men might be- 
come tipsy and temporarily irresponsible ; or they 
might gamble, or in any way subvert the laws of 
morality. But if one went deep enough, one would 
find running through it all an unbroken thread by 
which they held that they liad certain things to do, 
and that they would die sooner than leave them 
undone. Generally there was no surface indica- 
tion of this, especially in men who had been long 
at the business. 

Oflicially, the community was single and knit 
together most compactly. Socially, there were two 



ox THE OFFENSIVE 85 

communities ; for the commissioned strength was 
sliced off the enlisted, and had its being quite 
separate and distinct. It was sometimes almost 
inconsiderable, as regarded numbers, but in this 
numerical weakness lay its moral strength. Its 
members made of themselves something like a 
family through their common interest and aim, 
and ranged themselves under the paternal govern- 
ment of the senior officer. Being so few and so 
intimate, they were sufficiently acquainted with the 
strong and weak points of each other, and were 
wont to comment thereon with all the freedom of 
members of one family. This was especially true 
of the women, who sometimes finely drew the line 
between friendly interest and gossip — and some- 
times drew no line at all. Their running comment 
was a chronicle of the fort from day to day. Then 
there would be smarting of irritated feelings, or 
there might result caustic rejoinder, or fits of the 
sulks — quite as between the children of smaller 
families. But all that was temporary ; quarrels 
were the last thing to be fostered in a place where 
isolation threw them so completely upon one an- 
other's best mercies. The women had their in- 
stinctive kindness, and the men respected the let- 
ter of that moral code that had been bred into the 
bone since their first day at West Point, and of 
which the chief divisions are — 

Thou shalt not lie. 

Thou shalt not steal. 



SG ON THE OFFENSIVE 

Thou slialt not be afraid. 

So, between the two, breaches of the peace were 
speedily healed, and the family concord was seldom 
heavily jarred. 

When it happened that any officers were away, 
as Ealpli and Spurbridge were, their return was 
happily anticipated. Tlie absence of two made 
a consj)icuous shortening in the officers' line at 
parade as they marched to the front, and was es- 
pecially noticeable in the quarters of married offi- 
cers, where everyone was in the habit of dropping 
in at odd times for an hour's chat and a share of 
whatever in the way of cakes and ale might be on 
hand. There were but few from without the post 
who were privileged to call ; for the officers were 
isolated, and accepted their isolation proudly, even 
drawing the lines yet closer about them. Father 
Brugan might have been the only person in the 
little town to come and go on a social level with 
them. They accepted him ; but he sought them, 
although with an ulterior motive. 

Every morning, while the band was sounding oft' 
at guard-mount. Colonel Gerrish issued from his 
quarters and walked stiffly up the parade to the 
office. The old and new officers of the day, stand- 
ing at parade rest during that portion of the cer- 
emony, knew intuitively when he passed in rear 
of them, pausing a moment to scan the line. He 
was methodical, as no old soldier who really is a 
soldier can help being; uns^^■erving in his obser- 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 87 

vance of the three commandments, materially 
shortening the Decalogue ; just toward all men, 
thoughtful and courteous toward all women, high- 
ly appreciative of military deportment and effi- 
ciency. The men used to say they liked him bet- 
ter in the field than in garrison, but there were 
reasons for that ; it is always harder to keep the 
efficiency of a command up to standard in garrison 
than in the field, and Colonel Gerrish had accord- 
ingly to draw the lines a little more tightly through 
days of peaceful drill than of active operations. 

The paternal form of government worked very 
well under a man like Colonel Gerrish. He was 
never seen of a morning until he came out during 
guard-mount ; but the affairs of the post went on 
quite as smoothly beyond his view as in his pres- 
ence. The sentinels protected government prop- 
erty from trespass and thieves, and the police and 
fatigue details wrought about the post to its ad- 
vantage. 

After Colonel Gerrish had appeared, the other 
officers were soon to be seen heading toward his 
office. They were punctilious in the matter of 
saluting each other pleasantly every morning. 
Sometimes, if there was a question of general in- 
terest, they would sit and discuss it with the 
colonel ; but of tener they would soon separate and 
go, some to the absurd little library, some to their 
companies, and some to eventually drift around by 
the saloon and make glad the heart of the propria- 



S8 ox THE OFFENSIVE 

tor. Then came an hour of drill. The long af- 
ternoon was disposed of according to the ingenu- 
ity of the sufferer, and at sundown Avas parade. 
Duties were so disposed as to take up the whole 
day, although they occuj^ied but little time. The 
intervals of many consecutive hours were supposed 
to afford opportunity for professional improve- 
ment, and some became expert card players, or 
learned to hold much whiskey with a good grace. 
Soldiers get tired of theoretical instruction some- 
times, and refuse to improve their fleeting mo- 
ments according to the plans of brilliant schedule 
builders. 

The Avomen were pre-eminently home-makers. 
There was nothing else for them to do. The toAvn 
presented no attractions, and they could not be 
forever walking or riding over the prairies or along 
the watercourse. They took care of the children 
— of whom there were many — and made homes 
where homes had never been bhought of before. 
And they kept the love of their husbands, pos- 
sessed the respect of their husbands' comrades, 
and by maintaining a social standard did as much 
to promote the efficiency of the army as half the 
orders issued from Washington. This is not true 
of all army women ; it is true of them as a rule. 

Even this did not occup}' all their day. There is 
more time in an isolated frontier garrison during 
twenty-four consecutive hours than anywhere else 
on the known globe. For the rest, they sat to- 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 89 

getlier and made history — spun a fine web of ciu'- 
reut events in tlie post. Where real events were 
so rare and dull routine was the rule, the web 
necessarily sometimes became attenuated. This 
detracted nothing, however, from the pleasure of 
their occupation ; for all women are born spinners. 

While Colonel Gerrish was at the office, Lydia 
would go with her mother about small household 
duties, sharing in a measure the work with the 
soldier's daughter who came in and took a degree 
of service with them. This was Kitty Killeen ; 
her father was in Captain Lyndon's company. 
Later, Lydia would read to her mother, or sit with 
her, some light work in her hands ; she seldom left 
her alone. And when her father was back, if she 
tired of the strain of reading — or, perhaps, of her 
mother's sparse conversation — ^she could go down 
the line and chat with Mrs. Lawrence. Between 
the young matron and the girl there was fine afi'ec- 
tion ; they were supplemental in many ways. Mrs. 
Gerrish seldom ran in on her comrade-women of 
the line. She rarely formed an intimacy, and the 
ladies thought her " cold." 

Lydia was army in every fibre. She was born 
in the Cherokee Nation, was all over Texas at five, 
shivered through Montana winters at ten, saw the 
Pacific coast from Paget Sound to San Diego dur- 
ing the next five years, and then underwent the 
ordeal of boarding - school and seminary life in 
the East. Returning, she accompanied her father 



90 02i THE OFFENSIVE 

from post to post through Utah, Colorado, New 
Mexico, and Arizona. She was thoroughly loyal 
to the army ; it was meat and drink to her, and 
she was nourished in its high but narrow beliefs 
and customs. She possessed its straightforward- 
ness and sincerity, and had happily missed its 
lower traits. 

She was used to the constant sight and company 
of armed men. While a growing girl, she had 
made journeys under the care of an armed escort. 
Once, they had been attacked and sustained a 
severe fight ; so she knew Indians as they were, 
and as they were painted. She pitied them, but 
knew better than to waste any sympathy or senti- 
ment on them. And when troops were going out 
to take the field she would speed them with a 
cheerful, encouraging face, despite the anxious 
light in her eyes. This was of her army birth and 
life. It was not acquired ; it was natural. 

When she went to the young ladies' seminary 
where she was " finished," it was because it was 
the proper, the indispensable thing for a girl with 
an established social position. There was no par- 
ticular art or study to which it was desired to 
direct her attention. As the daughter of an army 
officer, but one thing was required of her ; to adorn 
her circle. It happened that many of the girls 
she met during these few years away from the 
army were not being educated to the same end as 
herself ; they had preferences, talents which they 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 91 

indulged and by which, later, they hoped to make 
themselves independent. Independence seemed 
to be their slogan. There was something very 
attractive in this for Lydia, in her quality of an 
army girl ; for the army, although dependent upon 
political powers for its very existence, is an im- 
mensely independent little body so far as its 
action is concerned. But civil pursuits were not 
for her; she had gone there to be finished, and 
finished she was, with an extra gloss ; for in the 
last six months her father was promoted to a 
colonelcy and got a corresponding increase of pay. 
So she parted from these girls with their new era 
notions of a career and independence, and went 
back to the army. 

According to the programme laid down for such 
cases, she should have married very soon, young 
officers at isolated stations being peculiarly sus- 
ceptible. But this was a case in which the old 
formula failed. She did not many, and women 
who took a friendly interest in her affairs said it 
was not the young officers' fault. There had been 
sevej-al who were pleased to offer themselves ; but 
her ear was disinclined, and she occupied herself 
over correspondences with the girls whom she had 
seen started in pursuit of a career. Some, she 
learned, failed by their own weakness, and some 
by marriage ; but others were yet pressing on and 
were well in the vanguard on the march for the 
sex's emancipation. That Avas in effect what they 



93 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

said about themselves ; and while she was not 
misled by tlieir fervently enthusiastic phrases, she 
heartily wished she were one of them. But instead 
of that stirring life, she was reading books of her 
own unguided selection, and passing time as best 
she might at a prosing, stagnating, far Western 
army post. It might be busy for some, but not 
for her ; and it seemed a rather undesirable thing 
that life had brought her to — that she should be 
required to remain passive in the centre of the 
circle. What was it all for? Was it for any- 
thing ? Oh, they wore tough questions she asked 
herself as she thought it all over ! 

It did not necessarily follow that she and Milli- 
cent Lawrence should be warm friends just because 
one was dark, and one was fair, and both were 
young and amiable. So far as that went, she 
might have been attracted to any one of half-a-doz- 
en other women in the garrison. It was rather the 
discovery that Mrs. Lawrence, as a girl, had held 
to these same ideals, and had even pursued them 
with a perceptible degree of success. This was the 
delightful bond of sympathy. Mrs. Lawrence. had 
given that all over now, and thought only of her 
wifely and matronly obligations ; but she had 
marched with the vanguard ; she had done her 
share toward the emancipation of the sex ! Lydia 
readily excused her for having married, just as she 
would an old soldier for seeking retirement. Mar- 
rj'ing an ofhcer was different from marrying any- 



Oy THE OFFENSIVE 93 

one else — more like a reward for good conduct, 
somehow. For an officer belonged to tlie most 
ancient and noble of professions, and was likely to 
be as nearly patrician as a democratic American 
would dare be. Lydia took delight in rehearsing 
with Mrs. Lawrence the affairs of the vanguard. 
They expected to live to see the emancipation of 
the sex. 

" When I think of all those girls are doing, Milli- 
cent, I'm fairly eaten alive "with envy," Lydia de- 
clared one morning on the porch. December had 
put a chill in the air, but with light wraps in the 
bright sun, they were comfortable. 

"I know, dear, it is perfectly maddening to sit 
still and see others going ahead," said Mrs. Law- 
rence, sympathetically, looking up to give force to 
her Avords and continuing her gaze abroad for the 
safety of the boys. They were contentedly hunt- 
ing tarantulas on the parade, and she rested easy. 
Tarantulas were not in force at that season. 

" There is nothing they are not up to," Lydia 
continued. 

" Indeed, no ; I have to keep watch of them all 
the time," replied Mrs. Lawrence, unguardedly, in 
maternal pride. 

Lydia looked at her a moment in pained sur- 
prise before she remembered that present cares 
and interests are always of most importance. 

" Yes, and the girls, too," she said, then. 



94 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

Mrs. Lawrence saw lier mistake and courag- 
eously rectiiied it. "I should liave said ' girls,' 
dear, but I was looking after Will and Jack just 
then." Lydia at once forgave her. "AVhat are 
the girls doing? " Mrs. Lawrence asked, summon- 
ing her fading interest. 

Lydia smiled her gratification. " Well, two are 
in journalism ; they are reporters on daily papers 
in New York." Mrs. Lawrence arched her eye- 
brows slightly, and Lydia hastened to qualify her 
opinion of that ambition. " It doesn't seem to me 
I should like that, but I presume they don't have 
to go about into all sorts of places the way men do. 
And one has gone in for medicine, and has an office 
with a glass sign in the window, She says she is 
really supporting herself. What sort of people do 
you imagine can employ her ? " 

"Eeally, I don't know. She may be ever so 
nice a girl ■'" 

" Oh, she is ! " 

"But I don't believe I should want a woman 
doctor anj^way. I have the old-fashioned preju- 
dice," Mrs. Lawrence concluded. She stole another 
glance over the parade from beneath her lashes. 

" So have I," assented Lydia, with decision. 
" Army surgeons are the only doctors I know any- 
thing about, and I can't imagine women taking 
' their place." 

"Are any of them taking up art ? " 

" Oh, 3'es, several," said Lj-dia, in animation. 



OiV THE OFFENSIVE 96 

" Two girls are in Paris now, studying like any- 
thing ! " 

" I can imagine that ! " said Mrs. Lawrence, with 
a smile of liappy memory, " Have they done any- 
thing yet ? " 

" No-o, I believe not. But some of the girls 
who stayed in New York are doing something," she 
added, putting forward the better side of the mat- 
ter. " One is making designs for initial letters and 
tail pieces that she sells to the papers ; sometimes 
she gets orders. And she made a design for a book- 
cover that was submitted in competition and came 
very near winning. They wanted to accept it aw- 
fully." 

" Why didn't they ? AVhat was the matter ? " 

" Oh, it cost too much. They wrote her a letter 
when they sent it back, and said it would have 
cost seven cents a copy to produce it, and they 
would have lost money on the book at that rate." 

Mrs. Lawrence was grieved that a girl should 
come so near clipping the wings of glory, and yet 
fail of a single feather. " I'm sure," she said, 
" they sell their books for enough, so there's no 
need to lose any money on them." She glanced 
over at the boys, who had abandoned the hunt and 
were filling small pails with gravel in the road, 
and again felt assured of their safety. 

" I suppose it's the author," suggested Lydia, in 
explanation. "You know they have to pay the 
author somethim>' for vrritinc; the book." 



96 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

" That's so," Mrs. Lawrence assented. *•' I never 
thought of the author at all." 

" Oh, some of them get immense sums, and be- 
come wealthy," said Lj^dia, vivaciously. "Not all, 
but some. Some of them don't have to do a thing 
but just write books, so you can see." She made 
an impressive pause. 

" Yes, I see now." 

" Those girl reporters expect to work up to 
that," Lydia confided. "After they get fairly 
accustomed to the business of writing, they will 
begin doing stories and verse for the magazines, 
and so work out of reporting. Then they will 
write books, too. Oh, they have it all planned 
out what they will do, and I'm sure they ought to 
succeed, they are so enthusiastic ! " 

" Oh, I do hope they will / " Mrs. LaAvrence ex- 
claimed ; and then cast another look abroad for the 
boys. She came back to the subject. "It is an 
ambition — so high ! I do not forget, although that 
which I once strove to be is now impossible — far 
behind me." 

" But I am sure you don't regret ? " Lydia 
asked, quickly. She knew the answer before it 
was spoken. 

Milliccnt looked her fairly in the face, and 
smiled. "There is one thing better than an am- 
bition," she said, softly. " One does not have to 
go outside the army for it, Lydia. It is here. Oh, 
have I not seen " 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 97 

" Oil, Millicent, don't — don't suggest that ! It 
may happen by and by — but I don't want to be 
driven to it ! Just now I want to look outside and 
be miserable." Her lip quivered with a suspicion 
of sorrow for a thwarted ambition. 

" Stay in the army — and be miserable ! " said 
Mrs. Lawrence, smiling at the manifest impossi- 
bility. She looked over at the boys again for proof 
of her own hapj)iness. 

They sat together on the ground. One had the 
fingers of the other in his mouth, and was worrying 
them as a dog a bone. On the face of the victim 
was a mingling of pained surprise and stubborn 
determination. 

Mrs. Lawrence sprang to her feet in an instant- 
" Boys ! " she cried. " Will ! Jack ! What are you 
doing ? Come here this instant ! " 

The one with a taste for fingers released his hold, 
and together they approached the maternal knee. 

"What were you doing to your little brother, 
Jack ? " she demanded. 

"Nothin'," said Jack, stoutly. "Only, I said I 
could make him cry bitin' his fingers, and he said 
I couldn't. That's all." 

The mother threw Lydia a swift glance, beseech- 
ing her not to appear amused. " Oh, dear ! " she 
said ; " this isn't Art ; this is Nature." 

" Now, Jack," said she to the culprit, who bore 
himself with the righteous air of one wrongly ac- 
cused, " it was very wrong of you to bite Will. 
7 



98 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

You sliould not want to make liim cry. I am go- 
ing to bite you now, just as you bit him." She 
gave a tender little nip at his fingers. " Did that 
hurt you ? " she asked, trying to conceal her solici- 
tude. 

" No," replied Jack, contemptuously. 

She tried it again. " Did it hurt then ? " she 
asked. 

"No," said Jack, with a quaver in his voice. 

She cast a glance of mingled pride and despair 
at Lydia, and bit the small fingers once more, as 
hard as she dared. " Did that hurt you, Jack ? " 
she demanded. 

Jack's lip quivered for a moment, and he made 
no ansAver. Then he got control of his voice, and 
turned to his brother. 

" I'm sorry I bit you. Will," he said. 

" That is right. Jack," said his mother, gladly. 
"Now I am sorry I bit you. And tell me," she 
added, her heart accusing her of having abused her 
offspring, " didn't I hurt you a little bit, Jack ? " 

But Jack, having abandoned his position of con- 
scious integrity, now cast pride to the winds. He 
buried his face in her lap, and sobbed brokenly : 

" No, you didn't hurt a little bit ! You hurt aw- 
ful ! " 

Lawrence, coming on the porch just then, found 
the boys crying together harmoniousl}', while the 
two women smiled mistily and comforted them. 
" AVhat's this ? " he asked. " Has a summary 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 99 

court been sitting?" Tliey told him the affair, 
and he looked properly grave and relieved as the 
recital proceeded ; for the eyes of the boys were 
upon him. 

" Millicent has a fine sense of justice," he said, 
approvingly, to Lydia, "but I suspect her some- 
times of tempering its application with mercy. 
"When she punishes the boys, she suffers too, 
which is a shame, for she doesn't deserve it. 
Come, boys ! " he called, briskly, " up with you ! 
There's nothing now to cry about — for you. It's 
all over. Eun along — hep ! hep ! hep ! " 

The boys straightened up like little soldiers, 
they caught the step as he indicated it, and they 
marched away to some new game, singing, in ca- 
dence — 

" Tra la latldy, tra la laddy, 
I'm a soldier like my daddy ..." 

Lawrence stayed but a moment, pleading duty 
with a board of survey that was about inspecting 
certain commissary stores. 

" Mr. Lawrence is very busy now," said Mrs. 
Lawrence, watching his stalwart figure across the 
parade. "Some of the officers being absent makes 
duty harder for those who remain." 

Lydia assented. " There is just so much work 
to be done, anyway. Only two are away now, I 
believe." 

"That's all— Mr. Ealph and Mr. Spurbridge. 



100 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

Tliey are due iu a few days, Mr, Lawrence 
says." 

" I hope tliey have had good luck." 

" Shall you be glad to see them back — or either 
of them ? " asked Mrs. Lawrence, with deep mean- 
ing. 

" Oh, both of them," Lydia made haste to de- 
clare, without prejudice. " They are both pleasant. 
Mr. Ralph says such droll things — takes such 
views of everything ! Mr. Spurbridge, too, can be 
delightful, but as a rule he finds fault. One would 
think the army wasn't good enough for him ! " 

" He hasn't had time to get acciistomed to it 
yet," Mrs, Lawrence explained, affably. "I can 
understand how that might be." 

" You always liked it, didn't you? " Lydia asked, 
solicitously. 

" Oh, yes, from the very first ; but it was differ- 
ent with me. I had nothing to do but enjoy my- 
self, and everyone did everything possible to please 
me. But an officer has his new duties to attend 
to, and it might happen that he wouldn't like all of 
them. He will get used to it in time, of course." 

"I don't know anything about that," said Lydia, 
in firm loyalty to the army. " I never had to get 
used to it, for I was born to it. I think a young 
man who gets a commission should consider him- 
self fortunate." 

"I hiow a young woman who gets a commis- 
sion is fortunate," said Mrs. Lawrence, laughing. 



OjV the offensive 101 

There liad been onl}^ happiness for her from the 
day she first saw an army post, and her outlook 
was necessarily optimistic. " One feels anxiety 
now and then about the things that migld happen ; 
but they haven't happened with me yet, and the 
life is so different from anything else that it quite 
makes up." 

"I am glad you feel that way, Millicent," said 
Lydia, cordially. " That fear of an outbreak is a, 
dreadful thing. Mamma and I have known it all 
our lives, and we have been through three that 
papa was in. But then, the garrison you are with 
makes such a difference most of the time. If peo- 
ple are pleasant, I mean," she explained. 

" I know — whether they gossip or not. It seems 
to me we haven't a gossip in the regiment." 

" I believe there isn't one," said Lydia, Avith con- 
viction. "But most regiments are not so fortu- 
nate. The — th, that was here before us, was all 
divided up into little cliques, and half the officers 
and ladies didn't speak to the other half. They 
were entertained once at a city near their station, 
and the host had the hardest time getting congenial 
people together ! Worst of all, he was a civilian, 
and it gave him a bad impression of the army." 

"I should think it would," said Mrs. Lawrence, 
with quick concern. " Strange what a difference 
there is in regiments that way. What do you 
think makes it ? " 

"I think just as mamma does, that a gossipy 



102 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

regiment is the fault of the commanding officer's 
wife. You know all the ladies look to her, just as 
ril the officers do to her husband." 

" Yes, I Imow." 

"That is why mamma has so little to say at 
gatherings in the post," Lydia continued. " She 
takes just as warm an interest in the regiment as 
anybody, and she keeps a watch on her tongue be- 
cause in that way she can serve the regiment best." 

" Your mother is a good Avonian, Lydia." 

" Yes ; and aren't you glad you know my moth- 
er's daughter ? " asked Lydia, quickly, with bird- 
like pertness. Then she continued : 

" I knew a two-company post once where there 
were but five ladies. You might suppose they 
would have gotten along together, if merely for 
mutual protection." 

" Don't tell me they didn't," Mrs. Lawrence im- 
plored. 

" I wish I didn't have to. Those five women" 
— spreading the fingers of one hand — "divided 
themselves into three cliques " — holding up three 
fingers of the other hand. " The adjutant's wife 
was always with the wife of the commanding offi- 
cer, currying favor with her. The doctor's wife 
and the wife of one captain were indignant at the 
thought of friendship on such terms, and made a 
second clique ; and the fifth poor woman would 
neither curry favor nor side with those who were 
disloyal to the leading lady of the regiment pres- 



OK THE OFFENSIVE 103 

ent, and cliqued alone. At least I was witli lier, 
though but a little girl — for that was my mother," 

Mrs. Lawrence was shocked. She had never 
experienced anything like it, and had usually 
scoffed at such tales ; but this came on too good 
authority to admit of question. " I hope it ended 
there ? " she said, tentatively. 

" No ; it hardly could. The officers listened to 
their wives and became frigid toward each other ; 
and then the infection got across the parade into 
barracks, so that the men of the two companies 
were constantly fighting. It gave the regiment a 
hard name, for the doctor's wife told of it at her 
next station." 

" No woman in the regiment would have done 
so," said Mrs. Lawrence, disapjjrovingly. 

" No, indeed ! They would have gone on to 
their dying day, insisting their regiment was the 
most harmonious in the service." 

" Just as we do about ours ? " 

" Exactly — the imitators ! " Lydia laughed. 

" Only ours really is," added Mrs. Lawrence 
proudly, as one unfurls a banner of special signifi- 
cation and regard. 

" Certainly," replied Lj^dia, with decision. 
" That's what we said in the first place." 

Father Brugan walked over from town to look 
after the spiritual condition of barracks. There 
was no chaplain at the post — a condition approved 



104 ON TEE OFFENSIVE 

by officers with families, inasmucli as a chaplain 
would have required good quarters, and some of 
them would have been correspondingly worse 
housed ; and none of them counted on receiving 
much benefit from army chaplains. There were 
two or three Protestant clergymen in town, labor- 
ing with meagre handfuls of followers in the hope 
that churches might be built and the unregenerate 
thereby saved. They seldom came to the Fort. 
Sometimes officers would be spurred by an incom- 
prehensible force to attend an evening service ; 
but this happened at such long intervals that they 
could not be deemed supporters of the church. 
Their united contributions would not have clothed 
a single heathen for a year. So the Protestant 
clergy let the military alone, and Father Brugan 
had a monopoly. 

He came over while Lydia and Mrs. Lawrence 
sat on the porch, and made a little round of paro- 
chial calls among the poor hovels in which the mar- 
ried soldiers sheltered their families. After this 
he came in front of barracks and looked across the 
parade. Seeing two figures on an opposite porch 
he came toward them with a vigorous stride that 
devoured the distance. The two women saw him 
before he was half-way across ; he was a man to 
attract attention anywhere. 

" There is Father Brugan. He is coming here, 
I do believe," said Mrs. Lawrence, with a little 
feminine flutter of arrangement. 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 105 

" Yes," assented Lydia. " See tlie way he walks 
across there ! Wouldn't he have made a splendid 
officer ? " 

Mrs. Lawrence looked at her, anxiously inquir- 
ing ; " Are you sorry he is not ? " 

" Oh, no, indeed. The priesthood needs men 
as well as the army." 

Mrs. Lawrence breathed easier, but still she 
could not forego a sweet word of caution from 
the store of wisdom her married state implied. 
" Yes, dear ; but you must remember — he is a 
priest." 

Lydia looked up with a bit of impatience ; it 
was trying that Millicent should not remember her 
aversion. It seemed that her mind must run on 
love and marriage simply because she was herself 
so happily married. "Don't fear," said Lydia, 
somewhat offended, " this is quite Platonic. His 
priestliness is one thing about him that I admire." 

Then Father Brugan came up and chatted with 
them for five minutes. Because of Millicent's ad- 
vice, Lydia was intentionally pleasant toward him. 
She was wearied of the restrictions of army life, 
and when an attempt was made to lay more upon 
her she became desperate. When she smiled up- 
on the priest and turned an attentive ear to his 
voice, her conscience did not reproach her for the 
attitude ; she would have done nothing in defiance 
of her conscience. Had he been an officer, she 
might with propriety have gone the length of an 



106 OW THE OFFENSIVE 

innocent little flirtation ; but this was no more 
than an unusual effort to make the priest's call 
pleasant, for which Millicent was responsible. 

leather Brugan inquired for Lieutenant Law- 
rence and Colonel Gerrish ; he told of his calls 
upon the soldiers' families ; he spoke of Ralph and 
Spurbridge, saying he iiked them and enjoyed 
being with them. He found Spurbridge possessed 
of a constant leaning toward what was good, 
and was glad, for he had yet so much of life to 
learn ; and Ralf)h he delighted in as a man of abil- 
ity, brave to the point of recklessness, resolute in 
the forming of his opinions, and yet with a mod- 
esty that was as a cloak over the whole — an ob- 
streperous modesty, the priest said. Then he told 
of llalph's single-handed attack on the saloon, of 
which neither had heard. Perhaps he addressed 
himself more particularly to Lydia, as she ap- 
peared the more interested. And when he would 
have excused himself and gone to call on Colonel 
Gerrish, she waved a defiant little hand at Milli- 
cent and walked down the line v.ith him. He en- 
joyed this very much ; for he did not possess a 
wide experience with women outside his priestly 
duties, and this was as novel as it was pleasant. 
As they went, Millicent felt a twinge of self-re- 
proach that she had said a word about men of any 
degree, in any sense, to Lj'dia. She said this to 
her husband when he came back, after the board 
of survey had adjourned. 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 107 

"What roade you do it, tlien?" lie asked, cen- 
soriously. 

" Don't, Fred," she pleaded. " It's bad enough 
that I scold myself ; don't make it worse. But I 
like her so much that I can't help feeling an inter- 
est in her happiness. Oh, dear ! I know I talk 
too much," she confessed. 

He felt great pleasure at this ingenuous admis- 
sion. " Well," said he, with spirit, " if you know 
that, there is great hope. Half the battle lies in 
finding the enemy's weak place. Now you've done 
that, you know the next thing to do. But you 
needn't disturb yourself, dear," he added, aban- 
doning his bantering tone. " So long as nothing 
worse than falling in love happens to people, they 
won't blame you ; and such people as these may 
be safely trusted together without danger of even 
that. It's out of the question for them." 

She had^ been looking at him intently as he 
spoke, and apparently drinking in every word as 
gospel. Now she drew a happy little sigh of com- 
fort, and said, disconnectedly : 

" Do you know, Fred, your eyes are perfectly 
charming to-day? They let the light through 
from side to side like opals, and are clear and 
bright. Oh, that little forage-cap — I wish you 
would never have to be out in the sun with it on. 
It doesn't shade your eyes a particle." She fin- 
ished with a look that told of the love her soul 
bore him. 



108 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

Lawrence sent a quick glance across the parade 
and along the line, and decided to risk it. He 
caught up her hand and put it to his lips a mo- 
ment. " I guess that's the reason you spoke to 
her ; 3-ou are happy yourself, little woman." He 
stopped, and laughed contentedly. " Our talk 
doesn't seem to run very straight in words — touch 
and look have a good deal to do with it— but we 
understand each other ? " 

" Yes, Fred," she said, with a glad smile. Then 
she gathered herself, and looked about in quick 
alarm. " Why, what has become of the boys ! " 
she exclaimed. 



Those pleasures are sweetest that are snatched 
from beneath the descending sword. The last 
days in camp were thus very dear to Ealph and 
Spurbridge. They were taken from under the 
very shadow. Having concluded their hunting 
they should, morally, have returned to the post; 
and yet they had a technical right to delay the 
fall extent of their leave. Both had reasons for 
taking advantage of this right — and they delayed. 

The nights were clear, translucent periods when 
the world seemed to be passing through a sub- 
stance of crystal. The depths of the dark heav- 
ens were unflecked by floating scud, and stars 
shone serenely'from space to space. In the still- 
ness of those elemental solitudes, one could ap- 
prehend that they were not in a single surface 
and at an equal distance from the earth. Under 
such a canopy, punctured by glowing spars of 
light, one heard no inappropriate sound ; there 
would be the flowing of the water between its con- 
fining banks, and the equally liquid flowing of the 
uncoufined night breeze as it came, tipped with 
the taste of ice, to one's lips. Here they lay as 



110 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

close to the earth as they could get, in the deep 
unconsciousness of healthy sleep. 

By day they sat beneath a warming sun that 
dissipated the frost-prints of the night, talking or 
thinking. Sometimes they would pass an hour to- 
gether without a word, taking nature with all the 
luxury of a cat on the hearth-rug, communing per- 
haps in thought though with silent lips. They 
did not need to be alwaj^s talking to convince 
themselves of the interest they felt in each other. 

Spurbridge, rather susceptible to impressions of 
this sort, once spoke to Kalph of it. They had 
been enjoying a silent talk all the morning, appar- 
ently interested only in the mad haste of the water 
to get away from itself, to flow between broader 
bounds. " This is quite like friendshijj, old 
man ? " he asked, at a venture. 

Ralph roused himself to consider the point. 
" You mean, to sit here and say nothing by the 
hour ? " he asked. 

" Yes. We don't have to talk. My idea of a 
friend would be one who could understand your 
silence." This struck him as a very pat definition, 
and he waited to see how Kalph would take it. 

" That's very good," said Ralph, willing to Ini- 
mor the boy in his fancied originality. " None 
but a real friend could do that. But it seems to 
me your definition is incomplete — or perhajDS is 
applicable only to special cases." 

"What's your idea?" 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 111 

Kalph picked up some small pebbles and threw 
them, one at a time, at a particular ripple, as 
though he delighted in destroying the predestined 
form of the water at that point. " I should say, 
one who, when asked about your past, always re- 
plies, ' I don't know,' " he answered. 

" Well, that's good, too," said Spurbridge, " but 
I think it's more special in its application than 
mine. Some people have pasts they are not 
ashamed to have exploited." 

*'I suppose I Avas thinking of my own case 
when I spoke," said Ealph, with a touch of bitter- 
ness. 

" Oh ! " Spurbridge exclaimed, disapprovingly. 
Ralph's cynicism had been much less pronounced 
during the trip than at any time since they had 
known each other, and Spurbridge was soiTy to 
see this outcropping, now that the trip was nearly 
finished. " Don't encourage such an opinion of 
yourself," he protested. '' There are none to share 
it with you." 

Ralph laughed joylessly. " That's where you 
fool yourself," he said. " There's one too many, 
anyway." 

" You have no lousiness to he flirting Avith the 
blue devils," Spurbridge continued, valiantly. 

Ralph looked at him as though he disliked the 
flirtation, and Avould be glad to be relieved of it. 
"I do talk like a fellow just getting over a big 
drunk, don't I ? " he said, in disdain of himself. 



112 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

*' Like a fellow when he's loaded down with re- 
morse, and is trying to make himself believe he'll 
never be such an ass again. But it isn't at all 
likely that's my fix now ? " 

" I should say not." 

" I believe you," replied Kalph, dropping his 
anxious tone and assuuiing one of deep fatality. 
"It is far more likely that I am about to begin 
one of fabulous dimensions." He threw a whole 
handful of pebbles at the ripple, creating a Avide 
disturbance. "You see the water runs on the 
same as it did before ? " he added, a moment 
later. 

Spurbridge looked up in contention, and his 
hands opened and closed nervously. 

"Why not? " demanded Ralph, almost fiercely. 
" A man breaks into the current of his life for a 
little time, but he knows it will run on just the 
same as soon as he gives up — which he is bound 
to do. And a man don't nurse a juicy thirst a 
month all for nothing ! These things come around 
in cycles, Spurbridge, and when you get so you can 
alter the orbit of a planet, you may hope to alter 
that. I'm no blasted exception, either," he added, 
flirting gravel about aimlessly. " It will be the 
same with any of the men. They'll all feel the 
need of a little relaxation after this month of absti- 
nence. Gavin's in your company, isn't he ? Good 
man, too — but he will do the same. So be easy 
on them, you theoretical martinet ! It's something 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 113 

they can't help any more than I can." He was 
fiercely impatient with himself, and with a fate 
against which he felt a struggle useless. 

" I don't like to hear you say that," Spurbridge 
remonstrated, in the tone of one who believes suf- 
fering and wrong exist simply because the fact of 
their existence is admitted. 

Ralph twisted his mustache impatiently. "Oh, 
well, stop your ears and don't listen ! Shut your 
eyes and don't see ! The water will run just the 
same. You are doing as a certain class of very 
good people have been doing ever since the begin- 
ning of time," he added, exculpating Spurbridge 
from individual fault, "but the fact of it is, these 
things are ; and ignoring them doesn't change the 
condition one iota." 

" I'm not ignoring anything," Spurbridge hast- 
ened to deny. " I'll admit the existence of drunk- 
enness and crime as quickly as anybody. It isn't 
always pleasant to have these things forced upon 
one's attention " — Ralph laughed in his throat — 
" but they're there, of course. No, I don't ignore 
— I simply deplore. And most I object to anyone 
sitting down and saying that it will be so, and that 
it's no use to fight against it." 

" Why, this is getting personal, isn't it ? " asked 
Ralph, critically. 

Spurbridge fidgeted beneath his cool glance. 
" AVell, measurably — yes," he admitted. 

" I thought so," Ralph spoke kindly enough. 
8 



114 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

" Well, that is good talk for one who is young 
enough to have enthusiasm and faith." 

" "What's the matter with your age ? " 

" Oh, the calendar has nothing to do with it," 
Ralph said. " But it's a good pose ; I like to see 
it — and I haven't a doubt but I was once as much 
of a fanatic as anyone. But I got over it, and now 
I'm not egotistic enough to fancy I can get the 
best of fate. What Avill be, will be. I should 
think, Spurbridge, you had been in the army long 
enough to accept that." 

"Well, I haven't," Spurbridge answered, sturdily. 
" And if that's a sine qua noit of the service, I shall 
just have to get out, I'm going up to camp," he 
added, brusquely dismissing the subject. "I got 
a whiflt' of frying bacon a minute ago. Coming ? " 

They went back to camp side by side, barely 
speaking the rest of the way. The familiar tents 
and figures of the men came before them siiddenly 
over the rise. 

" What's your idea of a friend now, Spur- 
bridge ? " asked Ralph, suddenly. 

Spurbridge stopped to consider, and the two 
men looked into each other's eyes. " One who will 
respect your confidences," he said. " Yours? " 

" One to whom confidences can be made." 

Spurbridge claj^ped him on the back. " Good ! 
Those definitions come together like the leaves of 
a hinge. Come on now ! This is the last dinner 
in the open. To-morrow we go to parade." 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 115 

Spurbridge had thought he would put on paper 
some of the events of the trip. It had been au 
epoch with him. He would write of it to his 
mother, and hoped he could command its atmos- 
phere. She had told him of the shifts his father 
had been put to in the war — how he used to write 
to her on a drum-head. He thought of this and 
wished hazily that he might have what the drum- 
head implied. He had no warlike details to give 
her, but there were others he would make quite as 
interesting : how he had killed the first deer ; 
how he was lost and found again in one day ; of 
the Thanksgiving dinner they ate in the depth of 
a little canon, when everything was devoured and 
the whole party had to hunt with firm intent and 
purpose before there could be another meal. And 
then there was the litter of camp, and its scents— 
the smell of cooking, of teams, of flannel clothing, 
of rifle oil, of the earth — all shot through and spiced 
with the breeze of morning. He wished he might 
give her the flavor of that. But writing on a pad 
held on the knee was more uncomfortable than 
the drum-head even, and as they were so near the 
post he decided to give it over until they should 
arrive. Then he could write comfortably, and at 
any length. 

He had taken some notes, for he had quite an 
idea of making the trip a basis for letters to news- 
papers also. He had an instinct for the pen, and 
thought he would like to spend all his spare time 



IIG 07f THE OFFENSIVE 

ill writing for publication. The instinct was crude, 
undeveloped; but there had been writers in his 
family — authors, he said when speaking of them — 
and he hoped he shared their peculiar talent. A 
consideration of this entered into his decision to 
content himself with notes for the present, and to 
postpone their elaboration until he could get into 
his quarters and be surrounded by conveniences. 
There he hoped to do himself justice — write some- 
thing that somebody would print. 

Two days shot by like arrows from the bow of 
Time, The men drowsed through hours of golden 
sunlight, slept through hours of silvery starlight. 
The leaves of the pecan-trees had yellowed and 
fallen in beds on the ground. The nuts were to 
be had for the gathering. Quail ran about the 
little thickets, and chirped and peeped fearlessly. 
The men blinked under their worn fatigue-hats, 
and lounged contentedly. It takes the true sol- 
dier to lounge. As he is capable of the most 
racking exertions, so he is capable of degrees of 
rest above other men. His work is cut to his 
hand ; he need give himself no care for the mor- 
row; he fights at the word of command, and is 
unconcerned as to when that word shall be given ; 
his life is rounded for him, and he has but to take 
it as it comes. To live and die a soldier — that is 
very easy. All things necessary to this life are 
provided him, and in return he has but to die, and 
the account is squared. It is a simple system 



O.V THK OFFENSIVE 117 

of book-keeping, and gives satisfaction to both 
parties. 

The third day held both regret and triumph. 
It was the end — that was the first thought in 
the morning. Gavin prepared the last breakfast ; 
tents were folded away in the wagon; the white 
canvas cover was drawn over the wagon bows ; 
and the work of decoration began. The antlered 
heads of deer were secured along the sides, and 
showed up bravely against the white cover ; corre- 
sponding white tails were hung at the headstalls of 
the mules, and were certainly worn with a flaunt- 
ing air of coquettish pride. They took iip the line 
of march for the post ; that was their regret. 

The mules shook out a rattling gait, knowing 
that home was just over the hill. Soon the men, 
straining their eyes, could make out the flag flying 
at the top -mast, and pointed it out to each other. 
Ralph looked at it and nodded. " There's the 
flag," he said, quietly, keeping his eyes on it. 
Spurbridge felt like a returning wanderer in for- 
eign lands. For twenty days he had not seen it, 
and before that it had been before him so con- 
stantly that he had disregarded it. His heart 
swelled at the sight, and he realized more than 
ever the privilege of bearing a sword beneath that 
banner. But he only nodded, as Ralph had done, 
and said, " Yes, there it is." It was not well for a 
man who bore a sword to talk much about his 
emotions. 



118 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

Then came triumph. The big gate of the post 
opened to receive them, and they rolled within the 
fenced inclosure and down the officers' line, with 
men looking enviously on from barracks, and peo- 
ple coming out on the porches to wave a glad 
welcome at them. lialph and Spurbridge went at 
once to their quarters to get the stain of wander- 
ing from their persons ; for all officers made it a 
point in garrison to ai)pear unacquainted with the 
camp, and to look as trig and bandboxy as uni- 
forms could make them. 

But before they had time to look about them 
other officers came hurrying in, as if to revel in 
their dilapidated appearance, but really to ask if 
they had luck, and how much, and where they 
w'ent, and who got the most game, and to punctu- 
ate the whole with shouts of gladness and deep 
acclaims of "Well! well! well!" And when at 
length, in Ralph's phrase, they had succeeded in 
"policing" themselves, they invited the curious 
officers over to look at the w^agon-load of game. 
There was the proof of their skill and endeavor. 
And then choice cuts were sent to every house on 
the line with the comjDliments of these able Nim- 
rods, and the companies came in for halves and 
quarters of venison. For a day there Avas no occa- 
sion for the visits of the contract butcher, and the 
garrison rejoiced toothsomely at the interlude to 
many consecutive courses of beef, pork, and mut- 
ton. Ralph cynically took a laugh to himself at 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 119 

siglit of the entire garrison sitting down to veni- 
son it had neither earned nor bought. He said 
nothing; he rather enjoyed saying nothing; but 
he was certainly gladdened by the appreciation 
shown for his deer and turkey. And it was with 
an assumption of superiority that both he and 
Spurbridge declined second helpings, and pro- 
fessed a cloyed appetite and a desire for the unap- 
preciated domestic meats of the butcher. 

Pay-day had gone while the party was away, 
and the pay of the men had been given to their 
captains for them. They lost no time in calling 
for it, and it was handed to them with no more 
than a word of caution. It was theirs to do with 
as they pleased. It did not come within a cap- 
tain's province to prevent their making a bad use 
of the money, but only to punish them when such 
use became prejudicial to good order and military 
discipline. 

In the end of daylight Gavin, Killeen, and Eob- 
inson were seen going away from the post. 
" They are ahead of me," murmured Ralph, bit- 
terly, in contempt of his own weakness. " I start 
from scratch, but I'll beat them in, probably." 

When three soldiers return to society after a 
month's absence in the depths of the world, and 
find a month's pay in their unaccustomed pockets, 
they forthwith resolve to call on all their acquain- 
tances in a single night. The first they meet will 
be effusively glad to see them ; and after that the 



120 0^'^ THE OFFENSIVE 

niercnry of the greeting will steadily fall — for the 
mouej iu the pockets of the three will as steadily 
decrease — until it becomes negative. This will be 
at the saloon of the last acquaintance, and nothing 
remains but to kick the three into the street. 
Sometimes a sound beating may first be adminis- 
tered to each ; but that will be in their quality as 
soldiers, and not as acquaintances. 

"What did th' old woman say to you about it, 
Killeen ? " Gavin demanded, as the trio marched 
with a firm step to the First and Last Chance. It 
was the first saloon as you approached town, the 
last as you went away. 

" She said nothin','' replied Killeen, with a grin. 

" Is that so ? " inquired Eobinson, in sarcastic 
surprise. " She must have changed mightily since 
we went out." 

" She has not. 'Tis I tliot's changed. I nivver 
tuk me rifle an' accout'mints home after parade. 
I lift 'em in H company barricks." 

Gavin roared in delight, pounding his comrade 
between the shoulder-blades. " Ah-h-h ! Now 
you're learnin' th' principles av strategy ! " 

They ranged themselves expectantly at the bar, 
and the master of the glasses beamed upon them. 
"Ah, boys! You've a fine color off the plains. 
It's long since I set eyes on you. Well, whatll it 
be ? " 

They looked at each other, and at him. " Are 
you settin' 'em up ? " said they. 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 121 

"I am that. You don't get back from a long 
trip every da}". I want to hear about it." 

They drank at his expense, and then at their 
ovm.. By that time their terse accounts had been 
given. When they paid the reckoning, they never 
thought of counting the change, but crammed into 
their pockets whatever was given them ; for the 
barkeeper was their friend. Such confidence in 
humankind deserves better recompense than it 
usually receives. 

They left the First and Last Chance with a step 
that made up in height what it lacked in length. 
It was more of a flighty hop than a trained march- 
ing pace. They came next to the Gray Mule. 
Their reception was kind, but curt. " Howdy, boys ; 
what is it ? " They paid for it. 

Then they visited the Moss Rose, the Bank 
Exchange, Albert and Charley, and the Cactus. 
That took them to the head of the avenue, and they 
turned do\\m the street that cornered into it. Their 
step Vas neither a hop nor a pace ; it Avas irregular 
and hu'cliing. The avenue brand of private soldier 
whiskey permitted a man to walk steadily but a 
short time. There was but one grade more deadly ; 
that was the sort sold on the street. 

They wandered down the street, arm in arm, 
Avith vague attempts at song. Some people made 
way for them ; some deliberately insulted them ; 
some followed them as buzzards do an animal that 
is about to lie down and die. It was well into the 



122 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

evening, and those who were abroad were for the 
most part prowlers and illegal livers. The broad 
moon tilled the street with white light that was 
turned to yellow before the windows of saloons. 
Gaming houses stood open to the street, and the 
click of chips and the whirr of a wheel mingled 
with hoarse, intermittent cries like, " Seventeen in 
the black, and nobody there ! " When the soldiers 
tried to gamble, they quickly lost ; they were 
thought so drunk that it was not worth while to 
spend time in playing them. After each disas- 
trous attempt they came out again and stumbled 
on, bent upon visiting" each resort. 

On through black shadow and white moonlight 
to the yellow spaces that drew them as surely as a 
candle the moth. They bubbled and guttered in 
their thickening talk and laughter. Robinson sang. 
Killeen was now and then convulsed with mirth as 
he thought how he had outwitted his wife. " 'Twas 
th' soul av strategy," he reiterated, with unantici- 
pated hiccoughs. " She won't mind ; there's th' 
wage av Kitty. 'Tis enough, so slie won't begrutch 
me drop." 

Gavin told his companions over and over again 
that he did not drink. They had laughed at first, 
and he had caught an idea that it was a good joke, 
so he kept repeating it. " I ain't drinkin' a thing, 
boys," he said. " You know I don't drink. I send 
me money to me mother. It's all she's 'got. Me 
mother's boy wouldn't drink." He said it so many 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 123 

times that it passed from a joke to a fact, and lie 
believed it and ^yas angry that his companions paid 
no more attention to it. " It's so ! " he shouted. 
" You fellows haven't got a mother. You niver had, 
nor father neither ! I've got wan, and I sind her 
money ! " He shrieked it at the top of his voice. 

" Be still, you drunken fool," warned Robinson. 
" Don't you see I'm singing ? " 

They pitched heavily into the Silver Moon and 
drank again. Some painted creature was on a 
raised platform, singing a sentimental ditty in a 
dry bone of a voice, devoid of all flesh of expres- 
sion. AYhen they got outside again, Robinson be- 
gan to cry. ' ' I had a girl once," he moaned. " She 
used to sing me that song. It was a pretty song 
then. But she's dead now, an' I'm drunk ! Oh, 
I'm drunk, my God ! my God ! " He blubbered, 
and fleered his arms aloft in anguish. 

Killeen shook a finger in drunken wisdom. " It's 
a dom sight better ; you might 'a' had to leave y'r 
'cout' mints in H comp'ny whin ye went t' get a 
drink," he said. " Nivver min'. There's Kitty. 
She'll give th' ol' woman her wage." 

"What's the matter with you!" roared Gavin, 
wildly. "I don't drink ! You know it ! You're a 
liar!" They had all stopped in the street, and 
were shouting madly at one another. 

Robinson grasped Gavin by the shoulder me- 
nacingly. Some onlookers laughed, for they 
thouf^iht the soldiers were about to fight each other. 



V24: O?,^ THE OFFENSIVE 

*' Dog eat dog," they said, appreciatively, waiting 
for the fracas to begin. 

Kobinson forgot to strike, and became maudlin. 
" I say, that's a good song," he declared, hanging 
his chin over Gavin's shoulder, " a good song — 
but she's dead now. She's dead and I'm drunk. 
What's the diff'runce ? Oh, God ! I wish I was 
dead ! " 

Killeen bubbled with fragments of words. 
" She's drunk and you're dead. Aw, God ! I 
wish I was drunk ! " He caught hold of Eobiu- 
sou and swayed about him in glee. The onlookers 
cursed out their disapprobation, and went away ; 
there was now no likelihood of a light, and drunk- 
en soldiers were so common as to have lost the 
charm of novelty. 

Gavin broke from the detaining hold of the two 
and led the way to the Legal Tender. " Come 
on an' drink," he invited, hospitably. " I'll watch 
you fellers. I don't drink, you know — no more'n 
Leftenant Ealpli — bully little feller ! Come on ! " 

Killeen caught at the name with delight. 
"Lef'nint Ealph — hooray "l He'd fight till hell 
froze over — an' drink, too ! He would thot ! I 
know 'im ! An' say — say." He became confiden- 
tial with the oifensiveness of a very drunken man. 
"He's going to git married t' tli' old man's girl. I 
know ! Kitty says so. She's a good girl, Kitty — 
gives her wage to 'er mother." 

" Well, let's drink." Gavin pushed them toward 



ox THE OFFENSIVE 125 

the bar till they were stojiped by a belligerent man 
who stood in the w^ay. 

" Get out o' here ! " he shouted at them. " None 
o' yer damn blue coats in here ! This's a gentle- 
man's place. See ? " He caught them by the 
shoulders, and kicked and pushed them along. 
The men sitting about jeered as they fell through 
the doorway and sprawled over the path outside. 

They were partly sobered by the insult, and 
picked themselves up without trouble. " Be we 
goin' to stand that ? " demanded Robinson, hotly. 

" You bet we ain't," Killeen frothed. " We'll 
git H company an' clean the place out. My gun's 
up there," he labored to explain. 

Gavin laughed sillily. " "We didn't get that 
drink. Come on. This ain't th' only s'loon in 
town." 

They staggered on, making sharp angles as they 
tacked wearily over the sidewalk. The door of 
the White Elephant was ajar to swallow them, and 
they passed within. The place was crowded, be- 
ing the most popular saloon in town. Just as 
they came in two men had begun a quarrel in front 
of the bar, and the crowd had suddenly dived un- 
der tables and behind one another's backs ; but 
the barkeeper had leaped over the bar, come be- 
tween the two, and grasped a hand of each before 
they had time to pull a trigger. He laughed in 
their faces, till they became ashamed of their ill- 
temper and drank together in a new cementing of 



126 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

friendship. Over on the platform the shoi't, 
chunky musician of the place never stopped rat- 
tling the keys of the piano in a dancing measure. 
There were men at the billiard and pool tables, 
and several minor gamblers had little crowds tak- 
ing the slender chances offered them. The at- 
mosj)here was heavy and blue with foul tobacco 
smoke, which in the struggling rays of the oil- 
lamps became a yellow mist. 

The three soldiers announced their arrival by a 
crescendo shriek. " This's th' place f'r us ! " they 
cried. The barkeeper, his face still set in the 
smile he had assumed between the two men who 
wanted to murder each other, came toward them. 
" Three shots f'r us ! " shouted Gavin. " Eed lik 
ker an' a lot of it ! We ain't had a drink in a 
month ! " 

They poured out their glasses with nervous 
hands, spilling liquor lavishly on the dark wood of 
the bar. Killeen, standing in the middle, rolled 
his eyes about the place, and then drove an elbow 
into the ribs of each man. " Say, there's Left'nint 
Ralph," he whispered, giggling in drunken merri- 
ment. " He's a gay wan to marry th' colonel's 
girl. Bully f'r 'im, though ! Hooray ! " 

Kalph was seated near a table, watching the 
game on it. Occasionally he placed a bet with 
the grave care of intoxication. His face shone red 
with exposure and the heat, external and internal, 
of the place. The game Avas relentlessly against 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 127 

liim. Killeeu watched his fight against gambler 
methods from afar. " He's th' sort o' mon I'd like 
to drink to," he declared, ribbing his comrades 
again. 

Somebody caught Gavin by the shoulder, and 
swung him round. " Say, my gay young buck, can 
you fight ? " he demanded, in a rollicking tone. 

" That's what I can ! " Gavin declared, with 
unnecessary emphasis. He had a reputation 
throughout barracks for the gloves. 

" Then go up there and get Bool, that fellow at 
the piano, to box with you. We'll make it worth 
your while." 

" Hold me hat ! " yelled Gavin, flinging it in 
the air, and making a dash to the platform. The 
crowd laughed approvingly ; it was in the mood 
for witnessing something brutal. He sjjoke to 
Bool, but the pianist shook his head. Gavin came 
back alone. " He says he won't," he explained 
from the edge of the platform. 

The crowd jeered at him. "Try him again," 
said they, " he'll box fast enough. You're afraid 
of getting done up ! Pull him off the stool and 
make him stand up to 3'ou ! Show your Irish, 
now ! " They flung phrases at him thick and fast. 
Robinson and Killeen shook their ponderous fists 
as a menace for his failure. He caught Ralph's 
eye, and saw encouragement in it. That decided 
the matter for him. " I'll make 'im box ! " he 
cried, and tore away to Bool again. 



128 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

" Stop murtlieriu' tli' piano and stand up to a 
mon av y'r size ! " he implored. " I'm fair dyiu' 
to do ye, an' I can do that same ! " 

Bool barely looked at him. " Get out," he said, 
without stopping his tune. " You ain't in my 
class. I'd tackle a Chinese laundryman sooner'n 
you. He'd have more of a show." 

Gavin looked around, and saw Balpli close by 
him. He shook his head in a discouraged way, 
and Ralph beckoned. 

" Look here, Gavin," said he, excitedly, " you 
can't drop this thing now, you know. Make him 
fight! Insult him. Slap his face. AVe're all 
standing by you, and you can't go back on us, I 
know you're a good man, but you've got to prove it 
to the crowd. Show what sort of a soldier you 
are, now," and he caught Gavin's hand in a warm 
pressure of confidence. 

Gavin daringly saluted his officer. " I guess 
we'll have to have a scrap now, lef tenant," he 
said with an air of soldierly determination. Then 
he went over to Bool again- 

" Will ye stand up to me now ? " he shouted ; 
and he swung his arm around and slapped Bool 
in the face. 

The crowd was captivated by this diplomatic 
course ; for diplomacy is sometimes as necessary 
to bring on a fight as to avoid one. There had 
been some suspicion of the pluck of the soldier, 
but when he invited conflict by such decisive 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 129 

measures the tide of feeling turned in his favor. 
Kalph grinned in satisfaction and retired to a con- 
venient seat from which to witness the contest. A 
space was being cleared and men were crying bets 
on one and the other in an incredibly short time. 

Gavin flung off his blouse and danced about in 
a wild ecstasy of delight at having accomplished 
his purpose and gratified Ralph. All the men in 
garrison were devoted to Ralph, because he got as 
drunk as any of them, and because he had proved 
himself a fearless fighting man in several cam- 
paigns. They swore by him, and would stop at 
nothing for him. Gavin felt all the delight of a 
virtuous accomplishment in pandering to Ralph's 
pleasure. But while the crowd applauded Gavin 
and waited for the fight to begin, Bool rose from 
the piano and,' without a word, walked from the 
room. 

A dead silence fell upon the crowd at such a 
display of cowardice, and then it sent up a mighty 
roar of rage at being cheated of its pleasure. Bool 
was condemned by every mouth. The proprietor 
swaggered forth in a passion, and declared he 
would discharge the fellow for his discourtesy to 
the gentlemen there assembled. The object of 
every employee of the place should be to please, 
and he assured the gentlemen of that repeatedly 
in the course of his apology. And then Gavin be- 
came again the object of applause and compli- 
ment, while he bewailed the unkind fate that had 
9 



130 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

bereft him of an opponent. He was a five-minute 
liero. Somebody said lie deserved a reward for 
exposing the character of the other man, and 
started a hat. With a generosity often character- 
istic of social outcasts, the crowd threw dimes and 
dollars — most of dollars — into it, and the collec- 
tion was forced upon Gavin with loud commenda- 
tion. He stufied the money into his pockets, and 
bobbed his Lnanks. He thought of his mother, 
that he could send her a great deal more than ten 
dollars that month, and all because he had gone 
out to spend on himself what he usually sent 
her. If he had staj^ed in his bunk at barracks he 
would have sent her ten dollars, and then pinched 
himself in the expenditures of comradeship all the 
month. Funny, how things went. Now he Avas 
rich, had more money than ever before, and 
. . . Well, he didn't go into the matter quite 
as deeply as that, even. He only had a confused 
idea that it couldn't be entirely wrong since it had 
worked out to such a good end, and that he ought 
to do something to show his gratitude. Father 
Brugan would direct him in that ; he need trouble 
his head no more with the matter. 

Then the crowd again surged around him, and 
bore him up to the bar. He had shown his merit, 
and had thereby raised himself to the level of the 
best men in the room. Everyone of them might 
be proud to drink with him ; there wasn't an ex- 
ception — no, sir, not one, the proprietor declared, 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 131 

nodding at Rali:>h in quick recognition. Kalph 
began to wish in his heart that he was not there. 
He did not relish being classed with common sol- 
diers by a common saloon-keeper. Of course, he 
was not in uniform, and so the service was tech- 
nically spared the disgrace of having an officer 
mix on terms of social equality with gamblers and 
pestilential people generally ; but from those who 
knew him, there could be no concealment ; and the 
saloon-keeper had recognized him, and might call 
out his name at any moment. He formulated a 
wish — not a prayer — that he would not, but he 
felt the danger imminent. 

Then he began to feel indignant. He set forth 
that he had come to town to have a quiet little 
drunk all by himself, and to be made a public 
character in this way was a shameful intrusion on 
his rights. He had always liked the White Ele- 
phant as a resort — it was the best equipped saloon 
in town — and before this he had entertained a pe- 
culiar regard and respect for the proprietor, chiefly 
because he knew him to be devoid of fear, and 
because he gloried in the doing of such deeds as 
that of stopping the incipient quarrel just before 
the three men came in. And now to discover that 
he rated officers and enlisted men on the same 
footing ! Why, his respect for a man capable of 
such an error was gone. He had not the first in- 
stinct of a gentleman. And Ralph began to think 
he would have to look up some other place than 



132 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

The White Elephant in which to enjoy his quiet 
little single-handed drunks. 

He got u]3 and began elbowing his way toward 
the door. Here he pushed aside a negro, there a 
Mexican ; here a cutthroat, there a gambler ; men 
of many aliases they were, and all rated with him 
in respectability and honor ! In a Hash he recog- 
nized, and chuckled at the thought, that a soldier's 
honor was a peculiar thing, as he understood it. It 
didn't make much difference wdiat one did, so long- 
as one was not found out ; and then he discovered 
this to be the rule governing the conduct of every 
man about him. Perhaps the saloon-keeper was 
right ! The gamblers made their living by cheat- 
ing, but it was all right until they were detected ; 
then they were likely to be shot. Yet everybody 
knew all the time that they were cheating. In an- 
alogy, he knew that Colonel Genisli ^\'as well 
aware of his propensity for drink ; but he also 
knew that until he was drunk during the perform- 
ance of some duty, he would not be court-mar- 
tialed. He wondered if that would be his fate 
some day ? It was such a disgrace that he would 
never be able to hold up his head in the service 
again, even should he happen not to be dismissed. 
Or perhaps the colonel would catch him tripping 
in some minor detail, and put him on pledge — re- 
move the social glass from his way, Avarn officers 
not to tempt him to drink, make him a monument 
of all that was untrustworthy. So long as he 



O.V THE OFFENSIVE 133 

slioukl keep the pledge lie would be permitted to 
remain in the army, on the apparent footing of a 
gentleman and an equal ; but he knew that nothing 
would so tempt him to drink as the fact of being 
on pledge. And then the colonel's daughter, 
Lydia, would know all about it — his weakness, his 
vileness, see him through and through ; and he 
brought himself up with a sudden start, berating 
himself for allowing his mind to formulate her 
name and image to itself in that place. He would 
not be so vile as that, anyway. 

Forcing his way out was hard Avork, for he was 
well toward the rear of the room and the crowd had 
filled in the comparatively narrow space by the 
bar. He elbowed along till he found himself so 
near Gavin that he could have touched him ; and 
then he encountered a current setting inward, and 
it was all he could do to keep from being carried 
back into the room with it. If he had had his wits 
about him he would have remembered that people 
were always crowding in at the front of the saloon, 
and he would have slipped out by a rear door. 
But now he was so near the front, he struggled not 
to be swept back ; yet with his best efforts he only 
kept his place near Gavin and the other soldiers. 
They were thus forced together, and he knew that 
if the smiling bar-keeper should again catch sight 
of him he would have to drink with them. This 
he did not want to do ; it was a mark of social pre- 
ferment to which he objected. Out in the field. 



134: ON THM OFFENSIVE 

where one man was better than another only as he 
shot or trailed better, drinking was another thing ; 
but in town he could have nothing in common 
with them. 

A man's face came into noticeable prominence 
directly in front of him, not three feet away — the 
face of a man who was struggling through the 
crowd to get near the soldiers. It was flushed with 
the effort, and Ralph looked at it twice in spite of 
himself, and then gazed at it steadily in curious 
fascination. It had the most intense expression he 
had ever seen — save once, on the face of an Indian 
chief after death. There was nothing malignant, 
hating, cruel, in this, but the calm, stolid intent of 
the white man who will arrive at the j^oint of his 
aim over all obstacles whatever. It was this man 
who had been the real cause of the tide setting in 
from the doorway. And then Ralph saw that he 
was Bool. Now that he was in the pressure di- 
minished, and Ralph, forgetting his desij-e to be 
away, remained without effort to watch him. He 
was surprised that Bool should return, but at once 
concluded he had thought better of the matter and 
had come back to gratify the patrons of the place 
by accepting battle. He at once commenced to 
have a kindly feeling for the short little fellow, for 
the sentiment of the crowd had become decidedly 
hostile. He stood where he was and watched him 
worm his way up to Gavin. 

Somebody else saw him and shouted the news 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 135 

of his return. " Halloo ! Here's Bool back again ! 
Plucky little cuss, after all ! Now we'll have that 
scrap ! " 

Bool pressed his lips together and let the under 
one fall in a narrow smile, showing his teeth like a 
bull-dog. " Will you so? " he sneered. 

Gavin was drinking. They had filled his glass 
once, twice, and now a third time he was respond- 
ing to the kind words of his friends. As he raised 
the glass, Bool, standing behind him, touched his 
shoulder. 

" I want you," he murmured, threateningly. 

Gavin had discovered nothing of his approach. 
Now he turned his head for a glance and was aston- 
ished to find Bool there. He had but one thought : 
would he be allowed now to keep the money that 
had been given him ? Was his mother to be de- 
frauded of money that, by intention, Avas already 
hers? For Bool had come back, and that meant 
fight. 

No one tried to interfere ; the crowd would have 
tolerated nothing of the kind. So when Bool 
touched Gavin on the shoulder, both men Avere in- 
stantly accorded room for a swinging blow. And 
then, with a motion so swift that they could see but 
a quick glint of the blade he used, Bool raised his 
hand and drew it cuttingly across the neck of 
Gavin. The blood shot out in a red bolt, full into 
the faces of the crowd ; and Gavin, clapping his 
fingers to the wound, gave a single moan : 



136 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

" Oil, I'm a dead mon ! Oli, mc poor mother ! " 

He swayed with a sudden loss of strength, and 
would have fallen; but Killeen and Robinson 
grasped him on either side, and made a movement 
for the door. The crowd was so dense that they 
could not pass. 

Then the proprietor, alive to the good name of 
the "White Elephant, leaped over the bar and ad- 
vanced in front of them, clearing a way. 

" Make room to the door ! " he cried, anxiously, 
and the crowd bent back before him. He looked 
over his shoulder at the soldiers, and begged them 
piteously, " Get him out ! Don't let him die in 
here ! " And again, " He can't die in here ! Make 
room to the door ! " 

They moved Gavin out through the door and set 
his feet toward the post. Killeen put his clumsy 
fingers about the cut and tried to hold the sides 
together ; but the blood forced its way out in fierce 
jets, spurting with each heart-beat ; and with each, 
Gavin became fainter and leaned more heavily on 
his two comrades. 

" Keep up, Gavin," they besought him. " We'll 
make the post all right and the doctor will mend 
your bit scratch in a jiffy ! " 

Gavin moaned again. " Nivver in the world. 
Oh, me poor mother ! " He thought only of her, 
came nearer to her with every pulse. " What will 
she do — me mother ! " 

Now everyone in town was behind them, trailing 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 137 

along to witness their distress — to rifle Gavin's 
pockets of their store. Someone was coming 
toward them — a man, tall and firm, walking 
strongly. As he came closer, Killeen uttered a 
cry as nearly of joy as might be : 

" Oh, praise all the saints ! 'Tis Father Bru- 
gan ! " 

Perhaps the shuffling, shadowy column behind 
them did not want to face the priest, or be- 
seen by him ; for at Killeen's cry it hesitated, 
stopped, and then began to disintegrate. Some 
bethought them of the cause of the tragedy, and 
confused cries arose: "Bool! Bool! Where is 
he ? Don't lose him ! " And the crowd set back 
tumultuously toward the saloon ; but they found 
the place quiet, and the man they sought taken 
away. 

For when Bool drew back from the blow he in- 
flicted on Gavin, he felt a grasp like steel at the 
back of his neck, and a sinewy hand gripped him 
by the wrist so he could neither turn nor strike. 
That was Ralph. He caught at him with all the 
strength of his wiry form, and held to him de- 
spite his struggles. Then another man came upon 
them, caring nothing for the procession of dark- 
ness at the head of which a soldier walked to 
death, and said : 

"He's my man. Let's take him to jail." 

Ealph looked uj3 and saw the sherifl" of the 
county, Bool was disarmed and marched away 



138 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

between them to the jail ; and when the crowd 
came surging back he was beyond their reach. 
Ealph had disappeared into the night also, and 
walked by side streets and alleys to the creek, and 
so home. He did not wish to be seen. 



VI 



Colonel Geerish had met Father Brugan while 
in town that afternoon, and told him the hunting 
party returned just as he left the Fort. Then he 
asked the priest if he wouldn't come over that even- 
ing, as it was more than likely that one or both of 
the young officers would be in to pay a call, and 
others might drop in also, and make a pleasant so- 
cial evening. Perhaps Father Brugan did not 
care so much for the social feature alluringly 
suggested by the well-meaning colonel, as for his 
chance of doing good among the soldiers, which 
was increased by every occasion of this sort ; for 
it was as necessary to know the officers as the 
men, and the more intimate his acquaintance on 
the line, the more freedom of action he could have 
in barracks. But he found these army acquaint- 
ances very pleasant in themselves alone. They, 
like himself, were there under orders ; that was 
one bond of sympathy. And another was that 
they were both there in support of law and order, 
though coming at it from opposite sides — they by 
force of arms, he by force of logic and faith. Thus 
he Avas glad that the colonel was thoughtful 



140 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

enougli to ask liim over, and he accepted tlie invi- 
tation quickly. 

But as lie walked away, lie was near rebuking 
himself for accepting, and was tempted to turn 
back and say that, after all, he could not come. 
He would have done so, except that his would then 
have been the attitude of the man who skulks from 
danger, of a coward ; and he was not that manner 
of man. His after-thought was the result of severe 
self-questionings to wdiicli he subjected himself 
often on his return from visits at the post ; and 
the point on which these inquisitions turned w^as, 
whether he found the more happiness in the work 
it was his to do among the soldiers, or in the talks 
that never failed of taking place between himself 
and Miss Gerrish. When he confronted himself 
with this suspicion he groaned in spirit, for then 
he felt himself unworthy of the priesthood ; other- 
wise, the thought v>'ould not have occurred to him. 
This troubled him, gave him sharp mental an- 
guish ; and when, by an effort, he had calmed him- 
self he would reflect on the last conversation, go 
over it analytically, pick it to pieces, and try to dis- 
cover what was in it that should not be. For the 
life of him, he could not determine it ! She told 
him small details about the soldiers and the mar- 
ried men that he found valuable in his work ; she 
took a sympathetic interest in what he did, and 
was glad when he could speak of it rejoicingly. 
They never spoke of themselves, but always of 



ON THE OFFENSIVE l-il 

others in connectiou with his Avork. And thus he 
would conchide that, so far as his mortal sight 
could penetrate, there was nothing reprehensible 
in their acquaintance. Consciously, he had violat- 
ed no vow ; perhaps he was too censorious toward 
himself, was keeping a too strict watch on his ac- 
tions. But he would no sooner reach that conclu- 
sion and feel a trifle easier, than he would find con- 
jured up before his mental vision a picture of her 
sympathetic face, her intelligent glance — and he 
would know that it was her personality that gave to 
the acquaintance its greatest charm. His self-re- 
proaches would then spring up again. Had he, even 
unconsciously, committed a sin ? Poor human nat- 
ure is so weak, even when bolstered up by firm 
faith and a constant labor toward things eternal. 
Then the more rugged side of his nature Avould arise 
to accuse him of temporizing with his duty. The 
work among the soldiers — work which only he 
could do — demanded the continuance of the ac- 
quaintance ; and if there was in it anything of a 
sinful nature, it was there to be fought against and 
subdued. This was, perhaps, the test of his Avor- 
thiness. Well, he would not shrink from it ! He 
would go forward as he had in other fields, con- 
centrating himself on a singleness of purpose. He 
would not leave work undone because of obstacles 
in the way ; he would go on despite the obstacles ! 
That had ever been his rule, and he Avould not 
now become a skulker. 



142 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

Lyclia Gerrish bad no suspicion of tlie conflict 
Father Brugan waged with himself. .Theological 
questions offered her nothing of interest in a case 
like this. It was not a matter of converting Prot- 
estants to Catholicism, or primarily of sustaining 
any creed ; it was an attempt to succor those who 
needed helj?, irrespective of faith or the lack of it. 
For in those parts of the world wdiere naturalness 
of conditions yet obtains in any degree, and man 
goes far back toward his primitive superabundance 
of brute force at the expense of mental power, there 
is no choice of theologically outlined paths to 
heaven ; there is nothing for it but equal and un- 
restrained charity for all men ; and he who can 
sink his prejudices of creed and look upon man 
simply as a brother, and not as a possible chvu'ch 
pillar, is the one who can have influence for good. 
Father Brugan was such a man ; and Lydia, rec- 
ognizing this quality in him, was glad that she 
might contribute in any way to his success. 

When Father Brugan made a tardy appearance 
at the colonel's that evening, he found Spur- 
bridge, and Lieutenant and Mrs. Lawrence. Tlie 
priest was warmly Avelcomed ; even Mrs. Gerrish, 
staid and stately, unbent a little and smiled as 
she spoke to him. There was some question 
about Balph, who had not been seen since pa- 
rade ; and then the priest, talking to Bpurbridge, 
drew from him a bright description of the trip. 



ON THE OFFENSIVE li3 

For Spurbridge had at all times the enthusiasm 
of undiscoiiraged youth, and this was now rein- 
forced by a hearty delight in his first expedition. 
Small details recurred happily to his memory : 
the chase of mules that deserted and tried to re- 
turn home, and were captured only Avhen a wire 
fence barred their progress; the experiments of 
Gavin, who aspired to break the record for camp 
cooking ; and his own despair because, with all 
his endeavors, he met no dangerous game, and 
must therefore buy his rugs instead of displaying 
skins of his own slaying. When he finished it 
was as though an unexpected entertainment had 
suddenly come to an end, and left the guests de- 
pendent on themselves. 

The talk circled away in little eddies about the 
room. Mrs. Gerrish chatted with Mrs. Lawrence 
about affairs that the men were not interested in. 
The colonel spoke to Father Brugan about Sun- 
day services for the men ; the school-house was 
vacant on the Sabbath, and he hoped the 23riest 
might make use of it. Lawrence was drawn into 
the discussion, being an officer of much experi- 
ence. The priest liked the idea, but said it would 
be impossible for him to conduct a service. Spur- 
bridge listened deferentially to the views of his 
senior officers until he happened to catch Lydia's 
eye across the room. She was alone, and the 
glance was inviting ; so he gladly went over to her. 

She took the lead at once. " Do you know, Mr. 



l-ttt ON THE OFFENSIVE 

SpiTrbridge, you told yonr story of the hunt very 
well ? " she said, abruptly. 

He stammered out some commonplace assur- 
ance of his gratification at having pleased her. 
He felt that he had done well, but he was sur- 
prised that she should unreservedly tell him so. 

" It was interesting as much in the manner of 
telling as in the story itself," she continued, con- 
vincingly. " Don't you find pleasure in both ele- 
ments when reading ? " 

" I can hardly say," he replied, slowly, still 
amazed at her manner. "I like a good story — 
and of course I like it well told rather than bun- 
gled." 

" I believe we all feel the same, though some 
won't admit it. They declare they read only for 
the story, and care nothing for style. I believe 
they are more affected by it than they know." 

" That's a curious view of the case," Spurbridge 
said, whimsically. '' I think it's a point of pride 
with people to claim all perception possible in lit- 
erary matters. I never saw a reader yet avIio was 
not also a fluent critic." 

" Well, it's one thing to have a good story, and 
another to make people know it's good,'' she in- 
sisted. " Do you know Avhat I would do if I Avere 
you ? " 

" I hope I shall in a moment," he replied, per- 
ceiving they were now getting at the milk in that 
cocoanut. 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 145 

" I should put an account of that trip on pa- 
per," she said ; and then looked at him inquir- 
ingly. 

" Oh, I'm going to," he said, after a moment. 
" I shall send my mother a long account of it," he 
added, misleadingly. 

" To be sure ; but that isn't what I meant," she 
said, becoming explicit. " Why not write an ac- 
count that would be printed somewhere ? I don't 
know about those things " — vaguely — " but as you 
were speaking it occurred to me it ought to be 
possible for you." 

Spurbridge felt a flush of pleasure that she 
should attribute to him the ability he most de- 
sired, was almost ready to believe was his. It was 
a sharp goad to his imaginative desire that she 
should give him unsought the credit he would 
have demanded. 

" Oh, I don't know about that," he replied, un- 
willing to betray the pleasure at his heart. "It is 
so different — speaking and writing. And then, I 
doubt if it would be worth while." 

" Do you think so ? " she asked, drawing back 
in a hurt way. " But I didn't mean financially. I 
never thought of that." 

"No? What then?" he stammered. He feared 
that she was offended ; perhaps he had dissimu- 
lated too well. 

" I thought of it simply as an employment. 
There is so much unoccupied time — and it 
10 



14G OiV THE OFFENSIVE 

would be no harm as a mental exercise, you 
know." 

" No harm at all, if I am in need of a mental 
exercise," he said, smiling to see her bite her lip 
in sudden discomfiture. " But there are the court- 
martials and the boards of survey that I am fre- 
quently invited to write up. Why do you imagine 
I have such oceans of unemployed time on iny 
hands?" 

" Because I have been in the army all my life 
and know what it is for every young ojfficer," she 
replied, with a sudden fine touch of superiority. 
" You don't for a moment suppose the daughter 
of your colonel could be mistaken on that point, 
Mr. Spurbridge ? " 

"It would be treason if I did," he declared, with 
ready self-condemnation. She bubbled a merry 
little laugh at the notion. "But I may as well 
admit that there are moments when I do absolutely 
nothing. Perhaps I waste more hours in the day 
than I sleep at night. It would serve me right, 
undoubtedly, to lie awake o' nights, agonizing over 
my wasted opportunities. And you would have 
me write ? " 

"Oh, no; not unless you w^ant to," she said, dis- 
claiming any personal concern. Then she became 
sincere and serious again. " I have often won- 
dered why officers did not occuj^y their time in 
some such way. They are always saying they 
play cards just to kill time, and pretending to re- 



ox THE OFFEXSIVE 147 

gret it. Do you tliink they feel very badly about 
it?" 

" It depends," said lie, weighing the question in 
fine scales, " on how the game w^ent. If I said 
so, you would know beyond a doubt that I had 
lost at least as much as I pay my striker every 
month." 

" Oh, should I ? And suppose Mr. Ealpli said 
it— what woidd that mean to a mind that could 
understand ? " 

"Well, Mr. Ralph wouldn't say it," he declared. 
" not it' he lost his whole month's pay. He has 
been in the army long enough to find out that any- 
thing that consumes time is not to be valued in 
dollars and cents." 

" Yes, I suspect he has," she mused. She 
looked Spurbridge frankly in the eyes. " I have 
half a mind to make a serious admission to you," 
she said. 

" Let me supply you the other half," he besought. 
They both laughed; for they enjoyed talking about 
themselves as they were doing, and they were 
young, and laughing was easy. 

" Well — I actually have envied officers their 
games of cards ; and if I were one of them, I 
would play as much as any. It is the hardest 
thing in the world to get through some of the days 
that fall upon a garrison." 

"Isn't it, though ? " said Spurbridge, sympathet- 
ically. He knew. Time never goes slower than 



148 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

witli some newly gratluated lieutenants, who pass 
at a bound from the busiest of lives to one of sus- 
tained leisure. 

" But it's a pity to choose nothing more desir- 
able than cards for a weapon, isn't it ? " she ven- 
tured, veering around to personalities again. 

He nodded his head emphatically. " But I can 
see why it is so," he said. "The old fellows are all 
playing when the j-oungsters come out, and they 
get into a card atmosphere before they know it. 
Besides, they play at West Point, which is strictly 
forbidden. We used to hang blankets over the 
windows and transoms and play in secrecy, risking 
heavy punishments. It was great fun ! " 

" I don't see it," she said, blankly. 

"Why, didn't you ever experience the happy 
sensation of doing what w^as forbidden ? " he asked. 

" Ah, I shall not adinit everything to you," she 
laughed. It was so necessary to draw the line 
somewhere. "And so you came out with a card 
taste developed ? Or is it that they work cadets 
so hard they vow never to do an unnecessary bit 
of work, once they are graduated ? " 

" A good deal of both. But I'm getting rested 
now, having been out over a jeav, and feel like 
doing something. You see I can make dangerous 
admissions as well as you," he added, gayly. 

■ " I believe you could do something with yoiir 
pen, if you would only try." 

He looked at her before he answered, as though 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 149 

sounding the depth of her friendship. "I foresee 
a great deal in this," he said. " I'll be writing 
endless strings of things and bringing them to you 
for criticism ; and I shall be running to you for 
inspiration. You'd better reconsider and turn 
back." 

"No," she said, "I shall be glad to do it for 
you. I should like to see someone take hold of an 
officer's life as though it were something more 
than a mere snap. There could be so much made 
out of it, if one would only be sincere in his devo- 
tion to a leism'e hour pursuit." She spoke with 
an earnestness that surprised Spurbridge into go- 
ing beyond himself. 

"I don't know what has made you speak of this 
— this writing. Miss Gerrish," he declared, " but it 
seems a good deal like mind transference. I had 
it on my mind." He emphasized his assertion by 
nodding, for she looked at him with new interest. 
" I have thought about it, wondered if I could do 
anything, and have at last arrived at the point of 
trying it. You encourage me when you speak as 
you do — give me more faith in myself, you know. 
There are hours and hours, every day, that it is 
absolutely tiresome to get rid of. I get tired of 
reading, tired of cards, tired of going eternally 
round the usual small circle of duties and garrison 
affairs. I want to get outside of it all ; I want to 
get away from myself ; I want to write. There 
have been writers — authors — in my family. You 



150 OX THE OFFENSIVE 

don't suppose they had cdl the talent, do you ? " 
he asked, comfort-seeking. 

"I don't see why they should," she told him, 
reassuringly. 

He was gratified. " Well, I'm going to give it 
a trial, anyway, and see what I can do. Of course, 
the thing is to write it so it will sell. I must have 
some point to strive for ; and if it isn't that, I 
might as w^ell be making pothooks." 

The priest, who had been looking at them from 
time to time, now crossed over and asked Spur- 
bridge what they had done Avitli the immense 
amount of game they must have brought in. 
Spurbridge laughed;. the killing of the game, he 
explained, was a larger part of the trip than the 
game itself. They had lived mainly on their rities, 
and what they brought back had been distributed 
in the garrison. None was wasted, and the sol- 
diers' families had a share of it. 

"I am glad of that," said the priest. "It would 
have been a pity to kill the creatures to no pur- 
pose. Well, the poor families will thank you. It 
w^as a good use to put it to." He looked at Miss 
Gerrish as if for support in his harmless state- 
ment, and was gratified that she should smile and 
nod her head. 

" Colonel Gerrish has been saying to me that 
he thinks it would be a good thing to have some 
Sabbath observance, not of a military nature, at 
the post," he continued to her. 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 151 

" You certainly agree with liim ? " she asked. 

" Certainl}', I am only sorry I cannot otficiate. 
I have suggested to him that some Protestant 
clergyman in town might be glad to devote part of 
the day to such a service. It need not necessarily 
be denominational." 

" Would they go, do you think '? " Lydia asked, 
in a general way. Lawrence answered her. 

"If you juean the men — yes," he said. "Last 
Sunday evening Mrs. Lawrence and I went to town 
to a service, and found half a dozen of them there. 
I am sure there worild be a good attendance at the 
post, if it was encouraged." 

A laugh of amusement escaped Mrs. Lawrence's 
unguarded lips, and Mrs. Gerrish sent a glance of 
decorous sm-prise in her direction. The subject 
of Sunday services had in it nothing ludicrous. 

" I shall have to explain," said Mrs. Lawrence, 
apologetically, as she noticed her superior lady's 
expression. "The preacher was an old-time ex- 
horter. He knew just what fearful things would 
happen after death to the wicked, and he told 
what they were. Then he shouted, 'All those 
who want to go to — to — that place, stand up ! ' 
There was a moment's silence, and then those sol- 
diers got up and solemnly marched out." She 
giggled helplessly at the recollection, and Law- 
rence finished her account. 

" It was not their fault," he explained. " When 
the house was still after the minister's invitation, 



152 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

tliey heard the call for tattoo soimcling, and they 
had to get here for roll call, or be punished. They 
naturally preferred the risk of future punishment 
to the certainty of a present penalty. But the 
congregation did not understand, and made sure 
they did it to reflect unpleasantly on the services." 

"It is a pity," said Father Brugan, "that they 
have not a service here they may attend without 
danger of having actions misconstrued. And for 
men whose lives are set apart from the rest of the 
world a special service may well be pleaded." He 
was in full process of encouraging Colonel Gerrish 
in his proposition, and would have sanctioned any 
service undertaken with due faith and reverence, 

Kitty brought in sweet cakes and tiny cups of 
chocolate just then, serving them on a lacquered 
tray. She quite trembled to approach the priest 
on so secular a mission, but he gave her a smile 
and a " daughter " that held for her a world of 
comfort. 

" AVell, we'll have to fix up some sort of a ser- 
vice for them," the coloiiel mumbled. " I don't 
know what — I want the sort that will reach the 
greatest number, whatever it may be." 

Mrs. Gerrish moved gently, with the intention of 
speaking. " I don't think, Colonel Gerrish, you 
will find them hard to suit. Very few soldiers will 
be sticklers for doctrine." She looked expectantly 
about, and there was a general laugh at the colo- 
nel's expense. 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 153 

" You don't apprelieud my idea, Mrs. Gerrisli," 
lie returned, in a gracious roar. " I want to get at 
the core of the matter — approach them on ground 
that all may hold. Does that seem impossible to 
you ? " he asked, turning to the priest. 

" Certainly not," he replied, promptly. " You 
can at least assume the central idea of worship of 
some power, of the existence of God. Do not 
even Indians have that '? " 

" They have something, though it is hard to say 
just what it is," replied Lawrence, who seemed 
best qualified to speak. " They worship one thing 
and another, and offer sacrifices, mostly propitia- 
tory. But I believe they are too elemental for 
a formulated idea of the Deity. Of themselves, 
they have nothing more than superstition." 

Lydia had been making herself small in the 
background, directing Kitty's movements. Now 
she spoke : 

" Well, is not that a foundation for belief ? " 

The priest gave her a look of reproach, and all 
seemed startled. Her father, after a moment's 
surprise, said, indulgently : 

" Ah, there is more of your reading, Lydia. I 
am afraid — afraid — 3'ou are browsing over too wide 
a meadow." He turned to the priest, whose eyes 
still shadowed forth that mild look of abhorrence. 
" You will have to talk to her," he said. 

They had some little talk on the point, and the 
result was that all became tangled in a mesh of 



154: ON THE OFFENSIVE 

definition and decision ; for tliey Avere not largely 
given to a consideration of tilings beyond their 
temporal station, and this handicapped them. 
And out of the bewildering skein arose Lawrence, 
crying : 

" I should like to know just where superstition 
leaves off, and belief begins. We know there may 
be such a thing as superstitious belief ; where are 
you going to draw the line ? And what sort of a 
belief is it that causes one to accept a wonderful 
statement uuquestioniugly '? AVon't someone elim- 
inate ? elucidate ? explain ? " 

" Not I," Father Brugan declined, with a mourn- 
ful shake of the head. " Those are questions you 
have built up, and they are unanswerable to a per- 
son who has not faith. I cannot entertain them. 
They mean nothing to me, because I have a very 
certain faith, or I should not be as I am. You 
may say I have superstition " 

" Oh, no, no," they protested. 

" I do not think I have," he assented. " What 
should I be doing with it?' I have accepted cer- 
tain premises, and on these all things else are 
clearly explainable to me. That is not suj)ersti- 
tion."* 

" No, it isn't," said Lawrence. He was a little 
appalled by the vehemence of the priest's defence 
of faith in the abstract. " But you know the aver- 
age person doesn't reason at all. He is told that 
if he does certain things in this life, certain condi- 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 155 

tions will result in the next. He accepts the 
truth, not only of the statement, but of the infer- 
ences — that there is another life, and that the per- 
son speaking knows all about it. There is a tinct- 
ure of superstition in that, to my fancy." 

The priest seemed to acquiesce, so unwilling was 
he to regard it as a question for discussion. " Then 
you will admit that superstition has, at least, good 
uses ? " he asked. 

" Oh, yes, I'll admit that," said Lawrence, glad 
to get off so easily. 

Spurb ridge gave a premonitory laugh, " Well, 
there's seeing the moon over your right shoulder ; 
and going beneath a leaning ladder ; and the pick- 
ing up of pins." 

Father Brugan interrupted him with a swift 
gesture of impatience at such levity. " It's hardly 
a question of that. The point doesn't lie in that 
direction." 

" It reminds me," said Colonel Gerrish, with the 
unmistakable air of the story, " of a pet supersti- 
tion that has grown into a belief. There's a cer- 
tain spring out here, about a hundred miles ; of 
course, in this dry land we know every drop of 
water. Now, this is clean, sweet water, and to 
pass it by means hardships, for there's no other 
within thirty miles. Yet infantrymen will never 
use it except under protest ; they say it brings 
bad luck, and, of course, that is nothing but su- 
perstition. But the fact is that it docs bring bad 



156 - ON THE OFFENSIVE 

luck — or, perliaps, you would rather I said bad 
luck has followed the using of it in all my experi- 
ence. So it gets to be a matter of belief. There 
was no superstition until tlie bad luck began to 
come, and then belief followed pretty quick. I.sn't 
that a curious case ? " 

"Yes, certainly," said Father Brugan, good-hu- 
moredly; "but you don't argue anything from it, 
do you ? At least, nothing more than that infan- 
trymen are superstitious? " 

" Huh ! " he grumbled. " It's a matter of certain- 
ty ! I'd stake my commission on it — and you won't 
accuse me of being superstitious ? " he challenged. 

" Why, Colonel — you will pardon me — but you 
seem to stand upon your own conviction," the 
priest replied. The colonel looked about in con- 
fusion ; his face became red, and his hair, nearly 
Avliite, rose in startling contrast about it. He 
smiled doubtfully, and then joined the laugh 
against him. 

"Well, I'm in good company, and we'll have to 
countenance each other," lie bellowed, amiably. 

Spurbridge was seething with impatience to put 
a question. " Colonel, I'm wondering if we didn't 
stop at that spring ? I suppose we found all the 
water in the Territory." He mentioned. localities 
and marches until the colonel held him in check 
by a gesture. 

"That's enough!" lie cried. "Did you take 
water from there ? " 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 167 

"Yes, cei-tainly ; there was no other." 

" Of course, of course." 

" I heard some of the men saj'ing something 
about it," Spurbridge continued, " but I paid no 
attention. Thought it Avas tlieir rougii ignorance. 
You really think there is something in it, sir ? " 

"Do I? I am ouly surprised that you killed 
any game ; that 3'ou didn't kill each other ; that 
any rag of the outfit ever got back to the post." 

Mrs. Gerrish rustled softly in her seat. " Per- 
haps the spring has lost its virtue," she suggested. 

" Not a bit of it ! That is Old Faithful ! " roared 
the colonel, taking up cudgels in its defence. 
" There will something come of it yet ! " 

" Isn't there any statute of limitations ? " asked 
Lawrence. Spurbridge smiled appreciatively, but 
the colonel remained glum. 

" It will come," he insisted. " I never knew it 
to fail " 

Mrs. Gerrish turned sharply to Lydia. " My 
dear, don't you think you might tell some of our 
fortunes ? " she asked, to change the current of 
talk. For the colonel, sunk in inky depth, Avas 
foreshadowing disaster and imparting a blue tone 
to the evening. Spurbridge was in a state of wide- 
eyed surprise that so able an officer should share 
the delusion of the enlisted men ; Lawrence, in his 
longer experience, recognized it as a common con- 
dition ; and the priest was considering superstition 
in a new light — if Colonel Gerrish was a slave to 



158 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

it, who might be free ? He himself might not be 
so enlightened as to care nothing for omens, after 
all ; and he feared it might have been a lack of 
experience that had led him to assert himself so 
definitively on the subject. 

Mrs. Gerrish leaned forward to command Lydia's 
attention. "Fortunes, my dear?" she suggested 
again. Lydia responded with a nervous start. 
The priest, who seemed never to miss her emo- 
tions, was looking at her in a kind of wonder. To 
him, Mrs. Gerrish's thought seemed born of the 
conversation. And what was this thing Lydia was 
about to do ? Did these people aflect to search 
out their futures by mortal means ? 

Spurbridge loyally roused himself to second 
Mrs. Gerrish's move. " Yes, do tell fortunes. Miss 
Gerrish," he implored. "Yours are ah\ays so 
happy — and you tell them with such a delightful 
air of probability that they are quite impressive. 
I always have faith in mine, no matter how often 
or how Avidely they vary." 

She laughed at him uneasily. "You don't give 
my fortunes a very good character ; they might be 
thought inconsistent — and whatever else they are, 
they are not that." 

" Indeed, no. Love, letters, journeys, money — 
so far as I have lived there is no fault to find with 
your practice of the hidden art," he replied. 

Lydia looked about the party despairingly. 
'• But I have told all your fortunes so many times 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 159 

there is no fun in it," she complained. " I know 
you all too well. It isn't fair that I should know 
anything, for my art is all-sufficient." She carried 
this off with so fine an air of truth that even her 
most constant subjects were impressed by it. 

" You never told Father Brugan's, did you ? " 
Mrs. Lawrence asked, to help her from her quan- 
dary. 

" No," said the priest, hearing his name spoken, 
"she never has told mine. Is it difficult? It is 
something I never saw done." 

" Oh, it is quite easy when you have so good a 
fortune - teller as she ! " Mrs. Lawrence cried. 
"Lydia, you must tell his." Immediately there 
was a soft clamor about the room that tlie priest's 
fortune should be told. He seemed in no way 
averse ; but she shrank from the task. A respect 
for his cloth rendered her unwilling to make him 
a party to anything so frivolous. Moreover, as 
love was the principal quantity in the fortunes she 
dispensed, and could have no place in his, there 
was but a sorry exhibition of her art in prospect. 
But they desired it, and pressed her to do it; and 
at last she found herself saying : 

" Well, if Father Brugan is willing — but reall}' 
I don't see how I can do him justice." She was 
laughing nervously as he moved over to her, but 
she tried to assume an impressive manner. " You 
must know," said she, " that it is really difficult, 
and that the cards and the lines of your hand do 



160 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

tell the exact truth, no matter what some people 
say." She indicated Spurbridge and Mrs. Law- 
rence as having fallen beneath her displeasure. 
"And you must believe what I tell you, or it will 
be of no avail," she concluded. 

He laughed quite merrily at the absurdity of her 
caution, and the laugh Avent round with cackle and 
chuckle. " Of course I shall believe," he said. 
" It will be easy— and belief will be free from 
superstition." 

"Oh, decidedly," she said, reprovingly. "You 
must not even think of that." 

" Let me see your hand," she suddenly com- 
manded, in a tone of mystic import ; and he ex- 
tended a palm that trembled slightly in spite of 
his effort to prevent it. She studied its lines, and 
touched the finger-tips to turn them and examine 
their shape. At her touch the blood rushed to his 
face from the very strangeness of the experience ; 
it was as though he had never taken her hand — 
and she, surely, had never taken his. Spurbridge 
noticed his color, and, leaning to Mrs. Lawrence, 
whispered : 

" He seems to like it ! " 

She nodded lightly, but remembered with regret 
her well-meant caution to Lydia. The priest held 
himself suddenly erect, and Lydia drojjped his 
hand, saying she had gained the insight needed. 
Then she told what the lines of his palm indicated. 
He was greatly surprised at her power, not know- 



OxY THE OFFENSIVE 161 

ing whether to class it as knowledge or as a result 
of some subtle iufliience ; and he listened intently, 
occasionally interrupting to admit " That is right ! " 
or " That is so ! " until she had finished. 

Then she took the cards and told a fortune from 
them with all the impressiveness of Avhich she was 
capable. Upon the priest, habituated to with- 
drawing into himself and there communing with 
the spirit, all unused to anything like this, the 
eflfect was deep. He was impressed by her earn- 
estness, which she carried to such an extent as to 
leave small suspicion of her sincerity. He found 
it possible to reconcile much that she said with 
facts of his life known only to himself, and this 
made him the more credulous of what she said for 
the future. 

Then she gave the cards a final shuffle and di- 
rected him to make two wishes : one should be on 
any matter he pleased ; the other, to be his secret, 
should be the dearest thing imaginable to him. 

She manipulated the cards, and glanced up 
gayly. " Your first wish is granted," she an- 
nounced. " What is it ? " 

" I wished that the infamous spring might lose 
its unkind power, so that the happiness of this 
good company should continue," he said. 

Miss Gerrish bent upon him her severest frown. 
" Ah, that includes yourself. You should have 
Avished but for others ; the next is for yourself 
alone." 

11 



1G2 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

" No," he insisted, " I wished but for others. 
How could I include myself, not knowing if the 
other is to be granted ? " 

She studied the cards again. Once she raised 
her eyes to his face and saw that he was regarding 
her intently. He had evidently made a serious 
wish and would attach weight to her answer. 
What should she say ? All the effectiveness of her 
performance depended now upon that answer. 
What was his wish ? She was puzzled. But it 
would not do to fall weakly now. She had given 
him his character according to her understanding 
of palmistry ; she had told him a fortune that was 
pleasant, and shot through here and there with a 
line of thoughtful effort. She had granted one 
wish ; would it do to grant this other ? Or would 
a bit of tragedy — the tragedy of disappointment- 
be better ? For she was artistic, if nothing else, 
and was intent upon rounding out her exhibition 
symmetrically. That decided her ; he had had 
enough that was good. 

At that point she sat back very erectly, and 
said : 

" And now your last and greatest wish. It will 
never be fulfilled to you — here, there, anywhere." 

She was looking directly at him, and saw that 
he went white. He even made an unconscious 
effort to grasp the edge of the table. 

" You are quite sure ? " he asked, huskily. 

" Quite," she replied, mercilessly. Because of 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 1G3 

liey army birtli and life she would be firm to cany 
out the performance on the lines she had chosen. 

Then he turned away and sank into a chair. 
Lydia was overwhelmed with chagrin as she 
looked at him ; but for the effect of the game she 
might have disavowed the degree of seriousness he 
plainly attributed to it. His disappointment was 
patent to all the party. 

" Beally, Lydia, you are too bad," the colonel 
remonstrated. 

She defended herself. " How could I help it ? " 

" No, Lydia. A joke is well enough, but don't 
carry it to an extreme," said her mother, keenly 
disappointed in the result of her suggestion. 

They showered reproaches upon Lydia in hope 
of seeing the priest cast off his gloom. The}^ as- 
sured him that it was only a game, and that no 
importance could attach to it ; but it Avas effort 
thrown away. He held up his head and forced a 
smile ; but all his enjoyment of the evening Avas 
fioAvn. And then he gathered himself for a leave- 
taking. 

" I am so sorry," Lydia said, self-reproachfully. 
" You must not take it to heart ; it is only for 
amusement." 

"I am sure of it," he said. "You are in no 
way to blame." 

He lingered a moment at the door. " What am 
I to think ? " she asked, making a faint attempt 
at rally. " Are you a Avee bit superstitious ? " 



164 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

"■ I don't know what to call it," lie said, frankly 
as became their friendship. " I am oppressed, 
weighed down, with a nameless fear. Do you 
know what that is ? " 

" Oh, yes. It comes upon one without reason 
for it." 

" Yes. I wished — that for which I have always 
hoped — wished it quite naturally ; but I believe I 
did it as a sort of test. "Well, it has joassed, and 
now I have this fear. Good-night ! " 

" Good-night ! Don't think any more about it." 

He was down on the gi'avelled walk. " Ah, if 
you knew how impossible that is ! " he called up 
to her. ' Then he walked away into the night. 

Out by the gate that permitted his exit from the 
Fort, he came uj)on a small bundle of sorrow, lying- 
in wait for him. It shivered in the frosty night, 
and drew closer to him. He looked at it with the 
dispassionate interest of the priest, and then, 
recognizing it, spoke with the authority of a guide. 

" Kitty ! Why are you out here ? You should 
be at home and in bed." 

" Mother wanted me to see you," Kitty whis- 
pered. " Father's back to-day, and he's took his 
money and gone to town." 

" Yes, Kitty, I will find him and send him home. 
Run, now, and tell your mother." He spoke with 
such kindness and gentle, forceful authority, that 
Kitty was comforted and ran quickly ; for the 



ox THE OFFENSIVE 105 

mother, watching by a sick yoimg child, coiild not 
know the cheering truth otherwise. And the 
priest followed the path to town. 

He descended the hill, crossed the creek, and 
walked up the middle of the sandy avenue. As 
he reached its head there came to his ears a con- 
fused mingling of heavy steps and heavier voices, 
some moaning, some cursing, all coming nearer. 
A number of dark forms strung along through the 
gloom ; and at their head, three men, walking 
abreast and leaning strongly toward the inner 
one, came into view. The priest stopped. And 
then Killeen shouted a glad recognition, and Rob- 
inson followed it with : 

" Gavin, Father — Gavin between us here — and 
he's dyiug ! " 

Gavin lurched heavily forward from the grasp 
of his companions, holding out his hands implor- 
ingly and making a piteous moan, and fell at the 
feet of the priest. Father Brugan knelt by him, 
and the night grew still around ; but it was the 
breathless atmosphere of death. There, at the 
head of the avenue, Gavin's life ran out ; and un- 
heeding feet bore awa}^ the red stain of the pool 
with no sense of the sacrilege. 



VII 



Ralph had slipped into the post by the dark 
spaces between barracks, and reached his quarters 
without being seen of anyone. He breathed a 
gasp of relief when he at last closed his outer 
door against the world. From the moment he 
had seen Bool into jail, and started home, he had 
had a haunting sense of eyes upon him, a fear of 
authoritative persons suddenly evolving themselves 
from the darkness, and putting to him questions 
whose answers would be but self-accusations. He 
cowered beneath the reproachful stars, and Avas 
glad when a roof stretched its friendly shelter be- 
tween him and them. 

He held himself morally to blame for Gavin's 
death. The thought made him shiver, and he 
reached for the whiskey on the mantel and swal- 
lowed a stiff glass to steady his nerves. It was 
not as though, in the field, he had ordered the 
man on some fatal duty. The difference was as 
great for him as for Gavin— as great as between 
losing one's life in the discharge of a soldier's 
duty, and losing it in a barroom brawl. He had 
countenanced Gavin in a disgraceful proceeding, 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 167 

and if liis share of it came out lie would be likely 
to hear from it through official channels ; the War 
Department would want to know why army officers 
had nothing better to do than to sit around in 
drinking-places and incite men to batter one an- 
other. This was plainly conduct unbecoming an 
officer and a gentleman, as the official phrase went, 
and the upshot might be that the War Department 
would be willing to dispense with the further ser- 
vices of such an officer. It was necessary every 
little while to make some offender serve the pur- 
pose of an awful example ; suppose it should come 
his turn for that ? 

He suddenly discovered that he had offended 
both deeply and often. A man might go on in- 
definitely committing offences against honor and 
morality, and not be aware of his own degrada- 
tion ; it required some such event as this to open 
his eyes for a clear inward glance. And thus per- 
ceiving how deeply he must have offended on 
many other occasions to have been able to take a 
leading part in this, he was the more able to per- 
ceive the truly exalted station he should occupy as 
an officer, became more fully conscious of the re- 
quirements of the service. How he had fallen 
away from all that ! He felt like prostrating him- 
self and humbly declaring there was no health in 
him ; he fortified himself against such weakness 
with another swallow of whiskey. 

Most curious reflection of all was that upon his 



168 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

motive in spurring Gavin on. Had it not been a 
man he knew Avell, of course he would have done 
nothing at all ; but knowing Gavin with the in- 
timacy of a recent camp, knowing that he was a 
passable boxer and that the uniform would gain a 
little prestige in that crowd of lukewarm admirers, 
he had urged him forward. It was really from a 
feeling of pride in the service. He wanted the 
army to come to the front, make its prowess felt, 
prove that it was as able in the individual as in the 
mass. Then, too, he was confident that Gavin, or 
any other man in barracks, would do as he told 
him. He found a certain pride in this, and he had, 
moreover, a touch of the arrogance that comes Avitli 
minor power. He liked to tell a man to do some- 
thing, partly for the pleasure of seeing him do it. 
With shame he suspected himself of having pan- 
dered to this foible in inciting Gavin to slap Bool's 
face — and in thinking of this, he became aware 
that he had really wanted to see a match ; and 
then he stood in doubt whether to charge his un- 
happy action to the score of pride in the service, 
or to his own selfish desire to exercise a little au- 
thority and see a fight. He knew that if he had 
possessed a true pride in the service, he would not 
have sat in the saloon and found the comjDauy con- 
genial ; and as this settled more and more deeply 
into his mind, he shuddered to think that Gavin 
had been sacrificed in the attempt to satisfy his 
own despicable vanities and pleasures. He held 



OIT THE OFFENSIVE 169 

himself in abhorrence for the conditions that made 
this reflection possible, and he took refuge from 
others like it in deeper drink. Bj and by he flung 
himself, without undressing, on his bed, and lay 
in unconsciousness till morning. 

In the days that succeeded he felt a sense of 
guilt upon him, and would have avoided sight like 
a wounded animal. He bought the silence of the 
saloon-keeper, and felt that this was a straw of 
hope ; but he did not visit town for a week, fear- 
ing lest someone, looking for witnesses, should 
recognize him even in the change from civilian 
garb to uniform, and pounce upon him. He be- 
came conspicuously attentive to his duties, and 
Colonel Gerrish congratulated himself on getting 
him away on the hunting trip, and breaking in 
upon his gathering associations. But it was a 
submissive attention, induced by fear of exposure 
and disgrace. He said very little about the affair 
to anyone, and listened to the denunciations by 
officers of the treatment accorded soldiers in 
town with a feeling of personal implication. As 
the days went by and no objectionable features 
developed for him, he breathed easier ; but for a 
time he bore as much remorse as it is given one 
man to carry. 

With it all was a sense that some penance, some 
atonement, was demanded of him. It was several 
days before he could find a way in which to ex- 
press this feeling, for it is little enough one man 



170 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

can do for another avIio is -dead. But when Gav- 
in's affairs were looked into by Captain Burns, 
and his money and eiiects set apart to be sent his 
mother, it occurred to Ralph that he might make 
an offering of money. That was a revolting way 
of purchasing peace to his soul, and it could only 
indicate his desire to do more, if there was more 
to be done. He started to give the captain a sum to 
be sent Gavin's mother, and then hesitated, think- 
ing such unusual action would be likely to excite 
comment and draw attention upon him. So that 
way was barred. Eventually he gave the money to 
the priest, knowing that he had so many secrets 
he would not mind one more ; and he had abso- 
lute faith that the secret would be closely kept. 

As if to plunge him to yet deeper depths of 
self-condemnation and despair, the hopelessness 
of his love for Lydia Gerrish seemed now more 
certain than ever. Sometimes he felt that his 
constant thought must induce in her a reflex 
thought and interest — although he ridiculed him- 
self in the next instant for entertaining so base- 
less a hope. He even made sure that if she 
thought of him at all, it would be to connect him 
in some way with Gavin's death. The fact that 
he had not been with Spurbridge on the evening 
of their return was a point against him, and in 
her mind might serve to indicate his connection 
with the tragedy. She would not be approach- 
ing him with any accusation ; it was only that he 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 171 

felt he must, of his own fault, suffer further dim- 
inution in her regard. Sometimes he wondered 
how he could love her, and yet continue in the 
path of increasing dissoluteness in which his feet 
were set. The two Avere not compatible ; he 
should have abandoned one or the other, but this 
was what he did not do. 

In the despair which he permitted himself, he 
found it easy to be jealous of almost anyone. 
Now it was some chance visitor, or some officer 
who came on temporary duty, was courteously at- 
tentive, and then hastened away; again, it was 
Spurbridge, and again, it was even the priest. He 
reviled himself in round terms for the last, believ- 
ing that if he ever had a disordered imagination, 
it showed itself in this. He laughed cynically at 
himself, and said it was an indication of the viru- 
lence of liis disease ; also, that the disease must 
run its natural course, for he Avould not offer him- 
self to her. He might do for the army, but he 
would not do for her. There were two kinds of 
officers, he reflected : those who made the profes- 
sion of arms exalted, and those who w'ere simply 
food for powder. He would have to class himself 
with the last ; he was good enough to shoot, al- 
though shooting might be too good for hira. Time 
had been when he looked upon himself as being 
in the other class ; but that had been long before, 
and he had allowed himself free frontier license 
since then. If he had fallen in love when ho 



172 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

was younger, and the service seemed to hold 
something of promise for him, that promise might 
have been fultilled. But in those days he was 
heart free ; and it was now, when he had gone 
down a grade, that he loved the more deeply be- 
cause it was so hopeless. That was the irony of 
fate ; he recognized it. He tried to carry off the 
despair of it as bravely to himself as he did in the 
face of the garrison ; he jeered at it, and reckless- 
ly invited further inflictions of fate through the 
medium of the whiskey bottle. He would have 
leaped at the opportunity to do Lydia a service — 
and then die. He would have had no melodra- 
matic turning of his dying gaze upon her, that she 
might then learn the secret of his heart's love and 
shed tears inordinately over it. He wanted to be 
of some use to her, and have that satisfaction ; 
then the end might come as it would. 

When the day of Gavin's funeral came and 
Father Brugan appeared to conduct the service, 
Kal]ih turned out with the other officers and 
marched to the grave that had been made in the 
God's acre reclaimed from the prairie. It Avas a 
crude service, pathetic in its simplicity. The de- 
tails of i\ military funeral were observed ; the body 
was borne on an artillery caisson, side-arms were 
worn, the band interminably droned a dead 
march, and all the men in garrison came after in 
slender column, dragging their feet to the slow 



OJY THE OFFENSIVE 173 

music. At the grave stood Father Brugan, tall 
and erect in his cassock. He made the service 
brief, though with no air of haste ; he repeated a 
Latin prayer, intoned, chanted, and left the dead 
soldier lying in his narrow trench,, while all the 
living soldiers gathered there were subdued by his 
solemnity and earnestness, and marched away to 
await their turn with a strange, calm comfort, be- 
gotten of his presence, in their hearts. There were 
faithful believers, and scoffers ; but all rested then 
in the faith that Father Brugan would, on occasion, 
do as much for them as he had for Gavin. Not 
that they merited it or could claim it as a right, 
but that Father Brugan was possessed of a broad 
catholicity of sentiment that enabled him to disre- 
gard all bounds of prejudice, and to recognize as 
alone of true worth the claim of the Maker upon 
each of his children here on earth. The priest 
knew a soldier's weaknesses — perhaps with a 
deeper knowledge than the soldiers themselves. 
He deplored, but he never shrank in his fight for 
righteousness. And a man might have been weak, 
sinful, and erring however ; but he could be very 
sure that in his last moments here, his first mo- 
ments there, Father Brugan would not desert him. 
He would make smooth his going and speak a 
good word for him ; and the men felt instinctively 
that wdth such credentials it would be very well 
with them. They could not have told you why, 
but it did not matter. Their reliance upon the 



174 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

priest was uplifting, even to the point of giving 
them faith in divine things which otherwise they 
had not thought of at alL 

The cohimn marched away from the grave, back 
to the iDOst, the band phiying its liveliest, most 
inspiring quickstep. That was the army way— a 
wail for the approach, a triumph for the return ; 
but it seemed much like a psean of rejoicing that 
the ceremony was over, and that now they might 
return to a contemplation of other things than 
death in life and the resurrection. The screaming- 
fife and throbbing tenor drum might better have 
been silenced till only echoes should have dis- 
turbed the air over Gavin's grave. But the garri- 
son had done its mourning, and was now ready for 
other duties. Here, perhaps, Uiy an unsuspected 
advantage of the militaiy life ; the little round of 
duties recurred as regularly as the dawn, and de- 
manded imperatively to be performed. One who 
had passed from it all could not long be mourned 
when other things required- attention. 

As Father Brugan walked down the line after 
his return to the post, he saw Lydia Gerrish on 
her porch. In vieAv of the assistance she had given 
liim in his work he could not pass without speak- 
ing at a little length. She was glad he stopped, 
and had even been asking herself if he would. 
They had not met since the unhappy evening of 
fortune-telling, and she did not know if this A\as 
l)y chance or by intention. 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 175 

They spoke of unimportant things, as people 
will when they meet after some events of unusnal 
consequence for both, of which there is a tacit 
delicacy of speaking. Then Gavin was mentioned ; 
the priest said yes, he had just come from the 
grave. Lydia knew this without being told. The 
matters of which they spoke passed before her 
mind as mechanically as figures in a kaleidoscope. 
She felt such qualms of conscience for the priest's 
sorrow that she could think only of that. She 
looked at him inquiringly, but he seemed not to 
observe this. Once he made a movement as of 
going, and then she hastened to speak the words 
on her tongue, fearful that he might go without 
giving her a chance. 

" You have not been over here so much of late," 
she began, awkwardly. The night of reference 
was not so far in the past. 

" Three days ? " he asked, with a rising inflec- 
tion. " Is that so long ? " 

She threw aside pretence as unworthy of use 
with one so far removed from deceptive phrases as 
he. " You haven't observed my request of the 
other night — ^to think no more of it," she said. 
His somewhat careworn face struck her as more 
deeply lined, a little thinner, than she had seen it. 

He wavjed his hand as though to brush her sug- 
gestion aside. "I told you then it was impossi- 
ble," he said, brusquely. 

" I have blamed myself ever since," she protest- 



176 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

ed, earnestly. " It was so cliildisli, so silly of me ! 
To have given you such trouble was — But I have 
been well punished for it ; I am glad I have ! It 
has been a lesson to me." He would have pre- 
vented her saj'ing so much, but she had no desire 
to exculpate herself, and persisted in her self-con- 
demnation. 

" I do not wish you to say all this," he declared, 
when at length he had the chance. " Of course, it 
was a game — I had never witnessed it — perhaps 
you played it with rare skill " 

" Oh ! " she cried, contritely, " I plajed as well 
as ever I knew ! " 

" AVell, that is not a fault, surely," he said, gent- 
ly. " Your object was to amuse the company — 
and doubtless you succeeded." 

" No, don't say that," she implored. It made it 
seem as though they had taken delight in his mis- 

ei-y. 

" I am not considering myself at all," he as- 
sured her. "You did your part excellently. I 
was wrong to take it so to heart. Perhaps — per- 
haps," he said, slowly, "I should not have done so 
had I not felt that I deserved all you said. My 
wish should not be granted." 

She looked at him inquiringly, hardly daring 
to formulate her desire. But he continued, after 
a slight pause : 

"It was something I had thought of — had dwelt 
upon — a great deal. I had questioned myself 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 177 

about it — after my visits here — and when you re- 
quired my dearest wish, I made that one. I had 
feared I was unworthy of its fulfihnent— and your 
phrase of denial seemed to fill my cujd of disap- 
pointment." 

"I would never have brought in a serious ques- 
tion seriously," she said. "I should not have 
dared to." 

" This icas serious," he repeated, " and I had 
dwelt upon it till it was ever with me. I could 
have made no different wish. In truth I must tell 
you now, for we are very frank with each other ; I 
feared I had sinned — in my heart. The sin had 
stolen upon me — taken me unaware ; and it was 
sweet — as sin must ever be " 

She had drawn back as he spoke, and regarded 
him with a look of horror. " You sin ? " she cried, 
incredulously. " You could not ! " 

He shook his head and smiled at her, gravely. 
" You will not believe me ? Never mind ; it must 
remain so. I can, at least, limit it ; the sin was in 
my heart — it shall never go beyond there." 

The interpretation she put on his words was 
in accordance with her habit of life — was that 
of a girl pure, but not saintly — and it left her 
groping. 

" And my wish," she became conscious he was 

saying. He stood read}^ to depart. " That you 

may know of what importance it was to me, I shall 

tell you. Because it was not granted, I knew my 

12 



178 ON THE OFB^ENHIVE 

sin was fixed ; for my wish was for the eternal sal- 
vation of my soul." 

He had taken his leave before she was aware, 
and was out on the parade, walking swiftly away. 
It was not until then that she realized what this 
was that he suffered — not until then did she per- 
ceive what this sin of his might be ; and even then 
the knowledge came through the swift recollection 
of Millicent Lawrence's warning, at which she had 
weakly taken umbrage. The priest had feared to 
find in his heart a feeling toward her, unjoriestly ; 
that would have been, for him, unpardonable. But 
for her, what w^as it save surprise that was neither 
joy nor sorrow — something before unthought of, 
all unknown to her? 

She leaned impetuously forward, caressing his 
retreating form with her glance. " Oh ! " she 
spoke, involuntarily — and then, fearing he heard 
her, clapped her hand over her mouth in dismay. 

He did hear — or fancied he did. He turned to 
see if she might be calling to him, but saw her sit- 
ting as he had left her. She waved one hand 
slightly — a token of understanding — of sympathy 
— of farewell — what ? The priest turned sharply 
on his heel and walked yet more rapidly toward 
town, his lips moving silently as though forming 
the words of a prayer. 



VIII 

In the quiet mid-winter clays that followed his 
return, Spui'bridge set earnestly about the occu- 
pation of his leisure time. He had been much 
strengthened in his resolution by the interest 
shown by Lydia, for he had anticij)ated shutting 
himself away from the officers and ladies of the 
post and digging hard at his task ; and that was 
not a pleasant prospect. The officers would dub 
him a crank and an unsociable fellow, and the la- 
dies would dispose of his case with the light com- 
ment so characteristic of them. Some of this 
would come to his ears eventually and be irritat- 
ing ; for he intended to take himself seriously, and 
he did not want to be held in light esteem for it. 
Lydia's sympathy was, therefore, very grateful. It 
held him up to the fulfilment of his self-imposed 
task and gave him added confidence in himself. 
And it became easy for him, lying leisurely before 
his grate fire, to behold himself — not so very far in 
the future — an author of both merit and fame, at- 
tending to military duties in a manner beyond 
censure, and in spare hours writing works — works, 
indeed ! — that commanded an instant sale, that 



180 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

were on every book-counter in the United States, 
that were the subject of the literary criticism and 
conversation of the day. He rather hoped the 
criticism would not all be favorable ; a diversity of 
opinion would indicate great joower in his works. 
And he would be held in the highest esteem 
throughout the army as one who had combined 
the dignity of the pen with the lustre of the sword, 
conferring new and desirable honors upon the ser- 
vice thereby. This was all in the direct path of 
his future, Avas now almost within his grasp, and 
he was about to step forward and claim it for his 
own ; his mind was made up to it, and he had 
received unexpected encouragement. 

It occurred to him that Miss Gerrish, in addition 
to her lovable nature, must be a girl of uncommon 
gifts, in that she, and she alone, had penetrated the 
possibilities of his mind. He was glad he knew 
her, and even the reflection that some day, when 
people would be speaking to her of the brilliant 
young officer and author in her father's regiment, 
she would detail to them the history of his early 
attempts and take credit to herself for having 
pushed him forward, did not materially detract 
from his enjoyment. He would, of course, prefer 
to have all the credit to himself ; he really deserved 
it, because he had determined upon his course 
before a word of it was spoken between them. 
But after all, this would bear a family likeness to 
the experiences of other authors ; there had always 



ox THE OFFEXSIVE Ibl 

been women to whom they looked for support in 
critical moments and who seemed never to fail them. 
These women were generally content to remain un- 
known, save for such rare acknowledgment as the 
authors might make. Here, then, was an oppor- 
timity for him to rise above the commonalty of 
authors ; he would sink selfishness into imsounded 
depths and be suitably generous in his acknowl- 
edgment of Miss Gerrish's share in his fame. His 
desire to blazon abroad her honors became well- 
nigh feverish, and it was with a little touch of dis- 
may that he reflected it would be necessary for him 
to win fame first. 

He could not avoid a general effect of amateur- 
ishness in setting about his undertaking, for he was 
without experience ; but he went at it with a rush 
and swirl of enthusiasm that partly atoned for the 
pervading crudity of the proceeding. He had read 
of the trials of authors, and was posted on the difli- 
culties of living in a garret on a crust a week, and 
of writing in stolen moments on odd scraps of pa- 
per. This, he decided, was not essential to suc- 
cess ; he had taken notes in camp and did not think 
they were any better for the discomfort of their 
taking. His first move, then, was to prepare him- 
self for comfortable labor. He approached the 
quarter-master and asked for a writing-desk, or a 
table that would answer the same purpose. The 
quarter-master looked at him as though the request 
was hardly in keeping with Spurbridge's empty 



182 ON THE OFFKNf<IVE 

shoulder-straps ; but seeing that the youug fellow 
was in deep earnest — so deep that he was uncon- 
scious of stepping beyond his accustomed limits — 
softened in his manner and said lie would see what 
could be done ; and an hoiu' later Spurbridge 
found himself in possession of a desk every whit 
as good as that in the office of the commanding 
officer. 

Then he submitted an application to be per- 
mitted to receive his quarterly allowance of sta- 
tionery ; and when the obliging orderly had 
brought it over by the armful, he looked at it on 
the desk Avitli pride. There was a deep bottle of 
black ink for the body of the manuscripts, and a 
shallow bottle of red ink for interlineations and 
general ornamentation ; for he was determined 
that his manuscripts should at least have the 
quality of neatness. Then, with the mucilage, 
the eraser, the sheaf of pencils, and the handful 
of pens, everything was ready. The quires of 
square letter and of long legal cap lay patiently 
before him in their purity, waiting to receive his 
thoughts. It occurred to him that it Avas going to 
be a herculean task to fill those pages ; but that 
was the task he had set himself, that Avas the task 
Miss Gerrish was expecting him to perform, and 
he could not retreat in the face of it. He must 
undertake it, and in doing so gain success. He 
bethought him of a foolish story of a man who 
decided out-of-hand to make a book ; and sitting 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 183 

down, dipped liis pen in ink, lield it poised over 
the paper a moment, and tlien looked up blankly, 
exclaiming, " But I don't know what to write ! " 
He smiled at the fatuous ignorance of the man. 
For himself, there could be no such catastrophe ; 
he knew what he was going to write, and there 
remained ahead of him but the labor. 

He wrote. It went very well for a day or two, 
and then he began to have interruptions. The 
officers, not finding him in the usual loafing places 
about the post, sought him out in his quarters. 
They came with solicitous questions on their lips. 
What was the matter, that he was secluding him- 
self thus ? Was he sick ? Had he, perhaps, suf- 
fered a disappointment ? Possibly there was a girl 
in the case — there generally was one or more — and 
his heart was sore in consequence. They railed 
at him cheerfully, and assured him that a brood- 
ing isolation would heal no smarts. The thing for 
him to do was to get out with the rest of them, 
and exert himself more than ever in the pursuit of 
daily pleasure. 

He could pot turn them away when they came 
thus friendlily. It would have been foolish to 
lock the door against them ; and he could not sit 
within, hear their knocks, and not shout an invita- 
tion to enter. When they came in they found him 
at the desk with sheets of paper, more or less 
written on, stre'VMi about in an affectation of liter- 
ary disorder. He would look up, greet them 



ISJ: ON THE OFFENSIVE 

pleasantly by name, and talk witli them as long as 
they remained ; but his eyes would keep wander- 
ing back to the desk and the sheets of paper ; he 
would finger the pen on which ink was fast dry- 
ing, and they Avould understand from his preoccu- 
pation that he wished them gone. Their tongues 
fell dumb as this fact intruded itself upon them, 
and they looked about the room uneasily. Its 
appearance was unusual, and they would some- 
times venture to ask what he was doing. 

" Oh, nothing much," he would reply. " That 
is, a little writing I have been trying to get off my 
hands for some time." 

" Well, don't let us hinder you," they would re- 
join, with a suspicion of acerbity in their tone. 

Then he would regret his discourteous manner, 
and try to put himself right with them again. 
" Oh, don't hurry away ; this can wait, and I am 
glad enough you came in." 

" How long before you will be done ? " they 
would inquire, lingering with a hand on the knob. 

" Oh, I can't tell " — casting a glance of concern 
over the papers. " A few days yet before this job 
is out of the way." 

" Perhaps we will drop in again and catch }ou 
with nothing to do." And so they would betake 
themselves to other scenes. 

Spurbridge then turned to his writing with a 
troublous sense of moments squandered and fine 
turns of expression lost. The fellows broke in 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 185 

upon trains of tliouglit that he conjured up with 
vast trouble, being unaccustomed to the task, and 
it was only by more labor that he could get them 
in running order again. This he conceived to be 
a waste of valuable material, but it was something 
he could not avoid without absolute discourtesy ; 
and nothing was further from his nature and in- 
tentions than that. 

The officers went their ways, talking of the 
change that had come over Spurbridge. They 
had never suspected him of a literary bent, and 
discussed the matter, turning it this way and that ; 
for the affair of one was the interest of all. Ralph 
said less of it than another, possibly because he 
understood Spurbridge better than the others. 
" He's all right," he asserted stoutly on several 
occasions, when it was doubted. " It's a case of 
youthful fever of impatience at the slo^mess of 
garrison life. I suppose w^e've all had a touch of 
it. It won't hurt him any now to practise hand- 
writing." 

Presently the ladies took to inquiring of one an- 
other why Mr. Spurbridge was less frequent with 
his calls than formerly. They missed them, as 
anything to break a deadly monotony is missed. 
The officers told them of his new departure, and 
they found a lively interest. It was something 
unusual to look upon an author every night at 
parade. When he did make a call, they asked 
him about his book — for it Avas settled among 



186 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

tliein that he was at work on one. This was an- 
noying, and at the same time a source of gratifi- 
cation. He was annoyed that it was not a book, 
that he was trying for nothing higher than some 
newspaper articles, yet. He did not tell them 
this ; he let them continue in error. He was 
glad to know they were in error ; it showed him 
that Miss Gerrish was holding the matter in as 
high esteem as he did, and had not told of it in 
the hourly chats of the garrison ladies. 

Ralph was the only one of his comrades whom 
he took into confidence. He had to do this, for 
in writing up the trip there were some features on 
which he had to consult him. Kal2)li looked upon 
his effort with an air of tolerance. 

"Give it a fair trial, old man," he said. "It 
will be a good thing if j^ou can make it work." 

" It's going all right so far," Spurbridge assured 
him. 

" Yes, I know ; but it's new now, and novel. 
Wait till the freshness of the impulse is gone ; 
it carries you over obstacles now so you don't 
know they are there. I like to see you make the 
trial, and hope you may succeed." 

" You seem to think it a matter of considerable 
doubt," replied Spurbridge, nettled at a lack of 
confidence in his strength of purpose. 

" I'm not doubting you for a minute, my dear 
fellow," Ralph protested. " I'm speaking from ex- 
perience and observation only, and I'm only afraid 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 187 

you don't realize liow big a contract you have 
taken. But so long as you succeed, it isn't neces- 
sary you should know." 

Whenever Spurbridge and Lydia met, which was 
much oftener than before, she asked, with evident 
interest, how he Avas getting along. Thus he fell 
in a way of talking of his progress quite minutely 
— the work of arranging incidents in proper se- 
quence, the interruptions of visitors, the number 
of words he got on a sheet of paper, and the prob- 
able rate of postage per thousand words. She 
suggested thinner paper, but he had already be- 
gun to copy from the first rough draft, and would 
make no change then ; on the next article he 
might. Then she hoped he would not send away 
his article without reading it to her. This dis- 
closed to him an unanticipated phase of author- 
ship ; he had not counted on reading his unpub- 
lished compositions before an audience. But al- 
though he was anxious to know what she thought 
of it, he was Equally anxious not to have the 
opinion of the garrison at large. There could be 
no strength for him in such a union. It was mani- 
festly out of the question to have a third party 
present at the readings thus established, and so it 
came about that he and Lydia often sat ttte-a-ttte 
and devoted themselves to criticism upon the 
work of one of them: 

He put much labor into his attempt, wTote and 
rewrote with commendable energy. The amount 



188 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

of pay lie could hope to receive in return rendered 
the labor notably unremunerative ; but he killed a 
large amount of time in the operation, and felt 
well satisfied. Money was not the only thing to 
be considered in determining if it was worth wdiile. 

One evening Spurbridge called on Lydia, wear- 
ing an air of accomplishment. " It is done ! " he 
announced, with complacent finality, 

" Already ! " she exclaimed, delightedly. 

" Oh, I have been a long time about it," he 
declared, modestly. " I suppose a professional 
would have done what I have in half the time." 

" I think you have done very well," she insisted. 
" I shall expect you to improve with practice ; but 
you can find no fault with yourself in what you 
have done." 

" If I can't it is probably because I don't know 
enough," he replied, whimsically. " At any rate I 
have accomplished something ; I have finished an 
account of the trip, and I have mailed it to a good 
paper. If they accept it I shall demand your con- 
gratulations, sure enough." 

She was sure they would take it, and based her 
assurance on the facts that it was well written, was 
a story not often told in print, and that very little 
was known of the countr}^ over which he had 
hunted. She knew nothing of the requirements 
of the newspaper, nor did Spurbridge ; yet he 
felt as Avell assured of victory as if he had under- 



ox THE OFFENSIVE 189 

stood newspaper work thoroughly. Aud he whis- 
tled gaily as he went away, feeling that literary 
success was a flower easily plucked. 

After several days he received word from the 
paper he had favored ; and he forthwith walked 
down the line with a noticeable air of elation. 
Ralph met him and stared in sui'prise at the change 
from constant preoccupation. 

" You look as happy as a bridegroom," he said. 
" What's the occasion of all these smiles ? " 

" They have accepted my article," Spurbridge 
replied, proudly. He drew from a pocket the let- 
ter of information, and showed it with a fine sense 
of importance in the new relation he had formed. 

Ralph gripped his hand firmly. " Good ! Keep 
it up ! I'll do what I can to help. At present I'm 
going to drink to and for you ; will you come and 
do the same for me ? " 

" No, I guessy, not, thanks. I was just going 
down to the colonel's." 

" He won't drink. Literary success has turned 
his head," said Ralph, casting up his eyes. " Go 
'long with you, and when you get back to earth, 
come 'round and let's have a look at you." 

He met Lydia with an attempt to dissemble his 
joy, but she saw through the thin disguise, " You 
have news of your article," she said, with the first 
glance. 

In spite of himself the corners of his mouth 
would curl upward into a smile, and his eyes shone 



190 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

with pleasure. " You have good news, too," she 
exclaimed. " Have they taken it ? " 

" Yes ! " he burst forth, throwing the letter into 
her lap. " Yes, they've taken it. There's what 
they say." 

" Well, I'm just as glad ! " she cried, when she 
had read the curt note. " I was sure of it all the 
time, too. They will pay on publication," she con- 
tinued, referring to the letter. " How much do 
you suppose you will get ? " 

" Oh, I don't know — haven't any idea ; " he waved 
aside this minor consideration. " I don't even 
know whether they pay by the column or by the 
real value of the article." 

" Some articles must be worth more than others." 

" Oh, of course. But that isn't the main thing. 
I have carried my point in writing something that 
was accepted. It will be printed ; it will be paid 
for. That is why I feel encouraged to keep on." 

"You ought to. Why, this is your first at- 
tempt, and you have succeeded with it ! There 
are so many writers who " try and irj a long time 
before they get into print at all." 

" I suspect they don't begin right," he reflected, 
magnanimously. " It is their misfortune, not their 
fault, as writers. Now, / have begun with a news- 
paper ; next, I shall be in a magazine." 

" Oh, that is very good," she approved. " What 
one shall you try for ? " 

" I don't know — any of the good ones — the Ccn- 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 191 

tury, or Scribners, or Harper s — I really have no 
choice. Any of them will do, but it has to be one 
of them ! " 

She ajoprovecl his resolution and encoui'aged 
him to persevere. At the same time she hinted 
it might be a good plan to make haste a little 
slowly. " But you will send more articles to the 
ncAvspaper ? " she asked. 

" Why should I ? " he demanded. " I have al- 
ways the newspaper, now ; having done that once, 
I can do it again any time. But the magazines 
are the court of highest resort ! There is the place 
to be known, if you would be known at all ! " 

" Oh, decidedly," she hastened to agree. " But 
you are so young, there is plenty of time ; you 
needn't be in a hurry. And the more you write 
the more facility you will get. I believe I would 
send a few more articles to the pajDers." 

" Well, there would be no real harm in it," he 
admitted, taking back from her hand the letter ; 
" only, if my ideas are really good, it is a pity not 
to sell them in a better market." 

He opened the letter and ran it through again 
for the hundredth time. " Nothing military about 
their style of correspondence, is there ? " he com- 
mented, with a chuckle. 

"I hadn't noticed especially. W^hat do you 
mean ? " 

" Oh, there's no red tape, no beating about the 
bush in accordance with some form issued before 



192 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

the war of 1812, They get right to the i:)oint in 
the fewest possible words. That's progress ! 
That's business ! " He h)oked at it admiringly, 
and then critically. "They don't even waste a 
word for courtesy," he observed. 

" I suppose you want to make a reflection on the 
army, but I shan't admit it," she said, charmingly 
combative. " The army is my home, and I won't 
see it attacked. And I don't see why they should 
stop to say the courteous thing about your article. 
Accepting it is enough. That speaks louder than 
many words." 

" Oh, I didn't mean that," he explained, annoyed 
at the necessity. " They might have said it would 
please them to have me submit more articles, or 
something of that sort. But that wouldn't have 
been business, I suppose ; they might have felt 
bound by it to pay me a higher price than they 
otherwise would." 

" The price doesn't matter," she reminded him. 
" We decided that some pay was necessary as a 
proof you were not wasting your time ; but the 
amount of pay was to cut no figure." 

He looked at her curiously, as though he had 
drifted a long way from that point of view, 
" That's so ! " he said. " I had forgotten it. I was 
thinking, the more pay, the more success. But 
you're right. Pay puts the stamp of the profes- 
sional on it, and I don't aspire to that, I am con- 
tent to remain an amateur." 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 193 

After that Spurbridge racked liis brains for sub- 
jects on which to write. He described life at a 
frontier post, dwelling on the monotony of the ex- 
istence and its w^orthlessness of aim — merely killing 
time in hope of a to-morrow that should bring pro- 
motion, increased pay, and a consequent livelier in- 
terest in life. He thought he made a very good 
point in declaring such an existence a continual 
mistake ; that the livelier interest was more possi- 
ble to the young lieutenant than the gray colonel ; 
that but an eflbrt, an application was needed, to 
make it a real, almost tangible, thing. He had 
himself in mind as he Avrote this sermon ; he was 
sure that now, with as much occupation for his 
leisure as he desired always ready, he could form 
a broader view and' be more friendly tow^ard army 
life. He read Lydia what he wrote, consulted her 
on every point, even going out of his way to find 
pretexts, and gradually allowed his interest in this 
new work to overshadow his military duty. It was 
whispered about the post that he was a successful 
writer, for since he was jQjiding a market for every 
article he was not so chary of his confidences ; and 
he enjoyed the tempered adulation that came to 
him from the ladies. 

It happened, however, in the course of the 
weeks, that some of his manuscripts were returned 
with curt, printed slips of regrets. This was a 
blow to him, for he had become so elated by suc- 
cess as to think himself almost invincible. Hav- 
13 



194 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

ing begun with acceptances, he had supposed re- 
jections were not for him. But he put these 
manuscripts into fresh envelopes and sent them to 
other papers, while he experienced a fine glow of 
virtuous indignation. 

And now, good fortune deserted him. The man- 
uscripts he sent out a second and a third time 
either came back with curt refusals, or were ig- 
nored altogether ; and he was forced to the con- 
clusion that they must have some defect, since the 
editors displayed such a unanimity of ojoinion con- 
cerning them. He rewrote a few, and taied to 
infuse some element that he vaguely felt was lack- 
ing — some force of thought, some originality in 
observation. It was of no use. If all the editors 
in the coimtry had banded together to crush his 
hopes, he could not have been more universally 
discouraged ; and he wondered if they did not 
have some system of communication by Avhicli a 
manuscript, once rejected, was thenceforth doomed 
to lie under the ban of all. .He amplified this into 
a semi-belief that an author who once had suf- 
fered a rejection was thereafter regarded with a 
sort of suspicion that his i)roductions might not 
be up to par. For nothing of all that he wrote 
now met with favor. 

Naturally, being thus frowned upon by all whom 
he approached, he looked upon his articles with bit- 
terness, and regarded the work itself with groAving 
distaste. Time spent at his desk was time thrown 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 195 

away, and might just as well have been employed 
at cards — better, so far as his personal pleasure was 
concerned. He could not write in the face of dis- 
couragement, both at home and abroad. So long 
as his work was appreciated in editorial rooms he 
did not care much for the chaff of officers ; but 
when chaff and scorn constituted his sole return, 
he was ready to throw down the pen. There was 
no one, he told himself bitterly, no one in the 
whole garrison, who appreciated his effort in all its 
intensity and sympathized with it. Most of the 
officers with their wives looked upon it as an up- 
start criticism of army life, and said with sharp 
irony that they were sorry if what was good enough 
for them was not also good enough for him. Ealph 
did not care for that kind of labor, did not sym- 
pathize with the work itself. Miss Gerrish was 
the only one who did sympathize, and she, Spur- 
bridge weakly admitted to himself, had about 
reached the limit of her usefulness. When he be- 
gan writing they were on equal terms, so far as 
knowledge of the undertaking was concerned ; but 
now, with all his experience, he was ahead of her. 
And he was at a loss how to proceed. He did 
not want to be pushed from behind ; he wanted 
someone to go before and lead. He was no ex- 
plorer. But among all the officers and their fami- 
lies there was no one fitted to give him assistance. 
The work he had undertaken loomed up like an 
impregnable fortress ; he had failed of carrying it 



196 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

by assault, and he had no heart to run the dangers 
of disappointment by siege. He felt very weak, 
hopeless, and dejected. And he was reminded 
that Ralph had said he did not appreciate the dif- 
ficulties of his undertaking. 

The officers had got so now that they did not 
drop in to see him very often ; if he wanted to see 
them he had to go where they were. Even Ralph 
followed the general drift, and seldom came near 
his quarters. The garrison seemed to harbor a 
feeling that he had set himself apart from them, 
was forming new ties and interests in which they 
had no share, no part. Spurbridge had not antici- 
pated this when he thought of writing ; it should 
have been a matter of self-improvement, perhaps 
of wide advantage. Now, he found this course 
was resulting chiefly in alienating the regard of 
those with whom he was thrown every day. They 
were content to be known as soldiers, asked no 
greater earthly glory than this ; it was like treason 
in their eyes for one of their number to think this 
insufficient. " Once a soldier, always a soldier," 
they said, wdienever they found it necessary to 
speak of it at all. The platitude served its pur- 
pose with them. All interests but soldiering were 
foreign and unessential to their scheme. 

One evening Spurbridge sought Ralph's quar- 
ters, find was glad to find Ralph there alone. He 
was moody, irritable, perplexed. He wanted 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 197 

things explained to him. He was afraid he had 
made a mistake somewhere, but he did not know 
whether it was in trying to be an officer and an 
author, or in entering the army at all. Sometimes 
he thought that if he had kept clear of it and had 
cultivated his talent for the pen, he would have 
been happier, more contented, and quite as well 
off ; but he was still intent on the combination, if 
it could be made. 

He nodded to Ealph as he came in, and threw 
himself into a big chair. Ralph humored his mood, 
and merely nodded at him. The boy looked ha- 
rassed and wretched. 

" How is our young Dickens to-night ? " Ealph 
asked at length, as Spurbridge showed no signs of 
speaking. 

"Don't!" Spurbridge howled at him. "Don't 
Dickens me ! I'm not doing that pose just now." 

Ealph pulled his mustache thoughtfully. "I 
see," he said, a fine compassion stirring his soul. 
" It is considerable of a strain, isn't it ? What 
would you say to " — he set out a couple of glasses 
and a decanter — " to a touch of this ? " 

Spurbridge displayed the faintest interest. 
" What is it ? " 

" The straight old army tipple," replied Ealph, 
firmly. " I reckon you don't have to be told yet 
what that is? " 

Spurbridge relaxed the intensity of his gloom, 
and even laughed a little. " No, I havfen't forgot- 



198 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

ten," lie said, pouring out a couple of fingers. 
" I'll just renew my allegiance herewith. " 

" This is something like your old sweet self," re- 
marked Ealph, as they drank. " It augurs well for 
a season of sociable converse. What's first on the 
boards ? " 

" It occurs to me first," replied Spurbridge, 
" that you are nothing if not flippant. Don't you 
intend ever to grow up ? " 

"Not while I stay in the army, from care and 
sorrow free," returned Ralph, jovially. "Age 
isn't a matter of years — witness the gay old dogs 
all about you, wearing shoulder-straps ; the bigger 
the strap, the younger the dog — get to be regular 
pups after a while. The army is the cup that 
always cheers, and sometimes inebriates ; it's the 
fountain of perpetual youth — the fire that never 
dies — the quintessence of a happy life " 

" Anything else ? Don't mind mixing your 
metaphors, Ralph. I'd like to know all there is 
in it." 

" Oh, you're getting so beastly critical nowa- 
days," Ralph deplored, " giving yourself such liter- 
ary airs, that a common scrub stands no chance 
with you. Still, I wanted to give you a little 
dig — rub it into you about the army, you know." 

" That's all right," said Spurbridge, easily. "I 
have my private opinion as to the army — perhaps 
you would like to have me put it in metaphor for 
you ? " 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 199 

"Not necessary, old man," Ralph rejoined, cor- 
dially. " I know what it is — or was, when you 
undertook to turn author. Otherwise you would 
never have tried it." 

" Wliat was it ? " demanded Spurbridge, as a 
test. 

"Well, you thought there wasn't much to an 
officer's life, now didn't you? Didn't it seem to 
you like nothing at all — nothing, with black trim- 
ming round it ? " 

" No," said Spurbridge. " The trimmings are 
gaudy enough. But the life itself is open to ob- 
jection on the ground of its nothingness. That's 
what I think." 

" Explain— detail," Ralph commanded, stretch- 
ing out his legs and enjoying a cigar. "You'll 
feel better for telling me all you hai^e against it." 

Spurbridge considered a moment. " I hardly 
know what you expect me to say," he demurred. 
" It's all right, the army, of course ; only, it isn't 
what I expected, somehow. Guess I've been dis- 
appointed." He went on, feeling about for expres- 
sions that should suit his views. His objections 
had never been formulated, but had existed in a 
nebulous way, causing him irritation and dis- 
content. 

" I didn't know anything about the army before 
I went to the Academy," he continued, softly. 
" I expected to find officers generally using their 
spare time in study or research of some kind. I 



200 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

tlioiiglit it would be the few incorrigible exceptions 
who loafed along and gave rise to current stories 
about poker playing and whiskey drinking," 

"Well, you've been mistaken, haven't you?" said 
Ralph. " Your e3'es have been opened to the fact 
that it's the many wlio loaf and the few who try 
to do anything. It's true enough — shan't try to 
palliate it — don't think it's worth while. "We do 
loaf and loaf — and booze and booze — and gamble 
and gamble — that is to say, I do. Don't know as 
I care to set myself up as a fair sample, though." 

"Ah, you're exaggerating your own case," Spur- 
bridge remonstrated. "You're not so black as 
you'd be making out ; those shelves of books give 
you the lie now. Yes, you are a fair sample," 
he continued; "at least, so far as I have had a 
chance of judging." 

Ralph seemed to acquiesce, and he Avent on : 

" Yes, I was mistaken, but when I found it out 
I wouldn't let it afiect my intentions. I loafed 
till I got all over the feeling I came out of West 
Point with — that work was to be abhorred and 
deadbeated, simply because I was surfeited with 
it — and then I began to write." 

" Yes, I know." 

" Well, it doesn't work any more ; success is 
lacking. At West Point we worked hard to gradu- 
ate, because then we would get into the army. 
Our ambition centred in that, and after we got 
there we were soing to sit down and never do 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 201 

another thing all our days. But that was short- 
sighted. After working so hard a fellow can't re- 
nounce all effort at once. And I had to have a 
new ambition, since the old one was— not satis- 
fied, but brought to an end. I suppose a proper 
ambition should occupy all one's life, and yet fail 
of accomplishment. And so I tried to write, and 
I have given it a good, thorough trial ; but it has 
been uphill work, and is getting more so." 

" Why ? " He knew, but he wanted Spurbridge 
to set forth his complaint in his own words. 

" Because it takes the heart all out of a fellow 
to have the dirt cave in on him as fast as he digs," 
Spurbridge replied. " And I feel as if the entire 
regiment had become hostile since I have been 
trying to write. A\Tiy is it? Do they object? 
Why should they ? It doesn't interfere with them, 
nor with my duty." 

"Is that all?" 

" That's all, I should hope — except that I am 
tempted to think it would have been better for me 
to resign when I graduated and never come near 
the army." 

"Oh, don't be doing the act of Lot's wife," 
Ealph interrupted, impatiently. "Let the past 
alone ; you can't better it by post mortems. Be 
enough of a fatalist to say, ' What is, is, and what 
will be, will,' and remain calm in the knowledge of 
it." 

Spurbridge wriggled in his chair, and gro\Aied 



202 ON tub: offensive 

inarticulately. Balpli hastened to speak upon the 
other side, 

" There are mighty few men in the army who 
are not satisfied with it — outwardly. Sometimes a 
a man will take up some occupation in connection 
with it, but the results are not worth consider- 
ing. I knew an officer who got interested in 
photography and spent far more than he could 
afford — remembering the price of beer in the Ter- 
ritory — on plates and films and lenses and what 
all. He never got a good picture of anything ; he 
was the worst kind of an amateur. By and by he 
gave it up. Another man invented a knapsack 
harness and offered it to the Government. After 
many years he found letter-carriers in some cities 
equipped with it on their pouches. He had to sue 
the Government before he got an}- thing, and then 
he barely paid the attorney's fees. There is dis- 
couragement on every hand for every attempt to 
get out of the official rut. I knew another officer 
— a surgeon — who spent his time wandering about 
the post collecting bugs. He knew all about bugs, 
but he had no interest in his regular work. After 
a time he resigned, and he has since written some 
standard books on entomology. But he would 
never have done it had he stayed in the service — 
never, while there was the least trace of the ama- 
teur about him. No one can do anything as an 
amateur anyway. That's why the State militia, 
with the best intentions in the world, never get to 



Oy THE OFFENSIVE 203 

be as efficient as regular troops. They are think- 
ing of the figure they cut in uniform, rather than 
of what the uniform stands for. They are not pro- 
fessional soldiers — only amateurs." 

" That may be the army belief," Spurbridge 
said, controversially ; " but the National Guard 
will never admit it." 

" Professional jealousy, that's all. It's the only 
point on which they are not amateurs," replied 
Halph, laughing cynically. 

Spurbridge dropped that question. " One would 
think there was plenty of time in which an officer 
could do great works," said he. 

"Yes, there's time enough, if that's the only 
consideration," Ealph replied. He stoi3ped while 
he struck a match and lit a fresh cigar. He of- 
fered the box to Spurbridge. " Have another ? 
No ? All right." He settled himself for comfort. 
" Has it struck you this is a great accomplishment 
— to be able to recline idly by the half-day, smok- 
ing and reading, and occasionally taking a drink ? 
You really enjoy life, then," he di'awled, regretting 
the effiDrt of speech. 

" Oh, great thing, great," said Spurbridge, scorn- 
fully. " They have it down fine in the army." 

" We — not they, old man," corrected Ealph. 

Spurbridge looked stubborn. " What's that 
other consideration you were about to spring on 
me ? " he asked. 

"I had two of them, dear boy," Ralph replied, 



204 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

nonchalantly. " One is that there's time in plenty, 
but no mental chance. The army takes all one's 
mind, if not all one's time ; whiskey and poker are 
really intellectual pursuits, you know. And the 
details of drill and of discipline, of social require- 
ments and of official regulations — you can't divorce 
yourself from those in the smallest degree, and re- 
main as good and efficient a soldier as you were 
before. What's that old saw about one man and 
two masters ? He was advised to renounce one of 
them, wasn't he ? " 

" So^nething to that effect ; you have the sub- 
stance of it yet." 

" Much thanks ; was sure you hadn't forgotten. 
But my other point. A man might have all the 
time and all the mind necessary, and yet fail of 
doing anything as a side issue in the army, because 
the hostile attitude you complain of would be cre- 
ated against him — or he would create it against 
himself — as soon as ever he tried the issue. In 
the army a man has a life position and life pay, but 
the Government does not provide for him that he 
may indulge in experiments ; it may be a generous 
Government, but it's too selfish for that. Well, 
there's a sentiment in the army that when a man 
does this thing, he takes an unfair advantage of 
the trust reposed in him by the Government. His 
action is hardly compatible with the honor of an 
officer. Of course you never had a notion of this, 
or you wouldn't have gone in for it yourself," he 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 205 

hastened to add ijacifically, as Spurbridge gave in- 
dications of a violent outbui'st. " It's all right for 
a man to seek some employment that will help 
him through the day— it's all right so long as he 
will continue at it in just that spirit, regard it sim- 
ply as a leisure hour affair. The trouble always is 
that a man can't keep it there ; the musical fellow 
disdains to be a fiddler, but wants to shine as a 
violinist. If a man cares enough for an employ- 
ment to take it up in the face of his comrades who 
are already inured to leisure, it will grow upon him 
till he is regarded as a worthless ofiicer. He gets 
past the amateur stage, and exalts his hobby to 
the rank of the profession that brings him his 
livelihood. That causes a clash, and the officer 
is likely to come out of it in a damaged condi- 
tion." He stopped as though he had made his 
point, and rested his case. 

" That proves nothing against the officer as a 
man," Spurbridge insisted. " His moral instinct 
is not at fault because his delight in some other 
employment outweighs his pocket judgment. It 
might argue him more of a man than his fellows." 

" Not at all. Morally he may be all right, but 
he is not more of a man ; he is less — weaker. The 
others remain bound hand and foot by the oath 
they have taken to serve the country ; he is carried 
away by his personal desires. Do you think con- 
stancy counts for nothing ? I tell you it's the first 
principle of the service ! " 



206 O.Y THE OFFENSIVE 

" A man had better be true to himself than to 
the finest government that ever existed," returned 
Spurbridge. He felt that he had been put on the 
defensive against unexpected attacks. 

" Oh, yes." Ralph flicked the ash from his cigar 
with his little finger, casting it mto the grate with 
the same motion. There was a suggestion of mere 
tolerance in the act. " Of course, a man may 
make mistakes and be no worse a man for it. 
And if he enters the army and then finds his inter- 
est in the service isn't what it should be — why, it 
is no more than unfortunate. It isn't criminal. 
His crime consists in busying himself with his own 
concerns, and yet receiving the Government money. 
There's no penalty for it in law ; we have to take 
the matter into our o^\n hands — make a moral 
lynch law to fit the case." 

"AVell, I call it a case of hasty judgment," said 
Spurbridge, indignantly. "Men who have under- 
gone no temptations are not fitted to judge men 
who have." He did not yet know even the little 
world of the army in which he lived. 

"I beg your pardon," said Ralph; "you're 
mistaken, Spurbridge, if you think constancy a 
very cheap jewel. There is not a commission in 
force to-day — not a commission in our army — 
that hasn't been the subject to its possessor of 
enough mental anguish to turn his hair gray ! " 
He paused impressively ; Spurbridge seemed not 
to comprehend him. He went on : 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 207 

" Why, do you think you are the only officer who 
ever tired of garrison dulness and sought relief by 
unauthorized channels? You're not. You are 
only a man, like the rest of us. Every officer has 
known that same feeling. Every officer has ques- 
tioned himself as to the purpose of his earthly 
existence — whether to stay in the army, or to get 
out and follow some other profession. Every 
officer has felt the utter emptiness of garrison 
days, and has admitted with bitterness of spirit 
that garrison days would make up most of his 
life. Is that a pleasant prospect? You know for 
yourself. Why, the history of the army is not a 
history of battles lost and won ; it is a record of 
recurring despair, gnashing of teeth, and futile en- 
deavors to break its monotony by the introduction 
of something from civil life. It can't be done ! A 
painter may also be a writer, and a merchant may 
delight in philosophical lectures ; but the army 
has kinship with nothing ! It is for and to itself 
alone ; it demands all your life and thought ; and 
you may as well recognize it, and make your oath 
of service mean something to you." Ralph paused, 
and observed Spurbridge narrowly. "Man alive ! " 
said he, presently, "I'm not firing platitudes at 
you. I've been through the mill myself, and I'm 
telling you of my own experience ! " 

Spurbridge looked up, smiling faintly. "That 
makes it a little better," he said. " I'm glad I'm 
not the only man to make an ass of himself. Still, 



208 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

if I remember, you rather encouraged my at- 
tempt." 

"Yes," Ralph admitted. " I wanted you to try 
it. You might make worse mistakes than that. 
For instance, if you got reckless in the strain of 
idleness and silence, and went to the demnition 
doggies at a hand gallop like some of your ac- 
quaintances are doing, instead of making your 
dogward progress commensurate with the length 
of your service. If you had kept this thing subor- 
dinate, 3'ou would have been all right ; but it has 
run away with you, and you stand in the pickle I 
have indicated. But you are not so badly off; 
it's easier to get away from than the dogs are." 

Spurbridge made no answer. He was thinking 
that the middle course, as outlined by Ralph, was 
hard to follow. He did not want to write if he 
must curb his interest ; that would have barred 
good work from the start. And he felt a certain 
freedom of action when he had hold of a pen that 
taught him reliance upon it. 

Ralph got a book from one of the shelves at 
hand. "Here's a bit of verse I'm going to read 
you," he said. "There may be a degree of appli- 
cation in it." He read from " The Old Man's An- 
nual : " 

'"What is tliis? 

A Life, my son, 

Fleeting as the momeuts run ; 

Something in each one of us, 

Belonging unto none of us ; 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 209 

Something "we can not explain, 
Holding less of joy than pain ; 

Treat it as an outward show — 

Live it, son — and let it go.' 

That's all," lie concluded abruptl}^ closing the 
book. "Make an 'outward show' of it — don't 
take it so seriously. You don't know anything 
about it, and perhaps you're making a mistake. 
It may be just a joke of nature's. ' Live it, and 
let it go.' God knows it isn't worth making such 
a pother about. The grass of the field that to-day 
is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, you know." 

"Perhaps I know more about my life here and 
hereafter than I do about soldiering," said Spui- 
bridge, with a confidence that surprised Ralph. 
He looked at the young fellow a moment, fingering 
the leaves of his book with an itching desire. 
"Oh, yes," he said at last, wearily. " I had some- 
thing more here I was going to read, but it isn't 
worth while." He paused again. " You're a good 
boy, Spurbridge," he said, finally. "You haven't 
got away from your early training yet." 

"No, I hope not," said Spurbridge, sturdily, 
overlooking the reference to his tender years. 

" No. Well, that's right. I won't read you any 
more." And Ralph pitched the book back among 
the others. 

Then they sat silent for a little time, until 
Ralph took up the conversation again. " You've 
seen only one side of soldiering yet." 
U 



210 ON THE OFFENSIVE * 

The reference to early training had sent Spur- 
bridge into a gentle re very of his home and all the 
associations of place and person. He roused him- 
self hurriedly. " What's that ? No, only the gar- 
rison and drill side." 

" Then you can't tell what it is like at all," 
Ralph assured him. "Nobody will deny that this 
side of it is dull enough to make anyone disgusted 
with the business ; but when you 've been out in 
the field a few times and seen what it's all for, 
it won't seem so useless to you. You'll take a 
better interest in it. You know it's all right now, 
theoretically ; but a turn in the field will go far to- 
ward making you contented." 

Spurbridge pounded the arm of the chair 
fiercely. " That's what I want ! " he declared, " 1 
do want to see a little service — no skirmish camp, 
but the real thing ! Well, there's precious little 
chance, these days," he concluded, bitterly. 

" Why do you say that ? " Ralph demanded. 
" Do you know what's going on ? " 

"I didn't know anything was," Spurbridge con- 
fessed. " Do you mean to say there's any chance ? " 

Ralph regarded him with deep dissatisfaction. 
" That's what you get by sitting all day before a 
sheet of paper," said he. " Why aren't you out, 
hustling about with the fellows and learning what's 
in the wind? Those Indians are acting mighty 
suspicious up 'round the Agency," he explained. 
*' The C. O.'s onto 'em, and there's a good chance 



» O.V THE OFFENSIVE 211 

of a couple of companies being sent up there to 
overawe them, if notliing more." 

Spurbridge brightened np wonderfully for a mo- 
ment, and then became disconsolate once more. 
"Mvich good that will do me," he grumbled. "My 
company would never be sent unless the whole 
force was ordered out, and of coiu'se no one would 
transfer with me." 

" There you are again ! " roared Ralph, indig- 
nantl}^ " You don't even know that the next 
companies on the roster for field service are yours 
and mine ! Why, man, we're the salt of the 
earth ! " 

Spurbridge was overwhelmed to find how little 
account he had taken of military affairs. He re- 
pented with much contrition, and swore to be 
ready to march at a moment's notice. 

" Well, see that you are," Ralph cautioned him 
as he rose to take his leave. " We'll have a chance 
to stretch our legs, even if we don't exchange com- 
pliments with the gentlemen of the red counte- 
nance. You want to have a good pair of marching 
shoes properly broken in — and woollen socks — 
and soap — why, you're a mere babe at soldiering ! 
Never mind ! I'll see to it that you don't make 
any breaks this time." 

Ralph called after him from the door as he went 
up the line, as though something of importance 
had been forgotten. Spurbridge halted, and Ralph 
stepped out to him. 



212 ON THE OFFENSIVE * 

"Do you know that fellow Bool, who killed 
Gavin, has broken jail ? " he asked. 

Spurbridge beat his fists upon his head in im- 
patience with himself. " No, I didn't know that ! 
What next ? " 

" Nothing — only, I'm rather glad he got away. 
He made a clean esca23e, and they have no trace 
of him." 

Spurbridge looked at him in surprise. " I can't 
imagine why you should be glad — you an officer, 
and the murdered man right out of the command." 

Ralph gave an uneasy cough. "You don't? 
But you see, his trial wouldn't have amounted to 
anything. He wouldn't have been convicted. 
You can't get a jury out here to hang a man for 
killing a soldier. Now there won't be any trial, 
and the matter will drop. Bool will meet a man 
some day who will get in on him — so the end will 
be the same. Some murders are justifiable, even 
if they are not legal. And — I'm rather glad on 
personal grounds, too." 

" Yes ? " asked Spurbridge, not understanding 
him. 

" Yes." Ralph hesitated, and dug up the gravel 
with the heel of his boot. " I might have figured 
in court if the thing had gone to trial; I hap- 
pened to be there when the row came off." 

" Oh, I didn't know that." 

" Yes — my bad luck. I've been in there fifty 
times, and never had a thing happen before. I 



' ON THE OFFENSIVE 213 

hadn't said anj^tliing about this to anyone," he 
added. 

" No, of course not," said Spnrbridge, promptly. 

" I'm rather glad to tell yon now." 

" Oh, I'll observe your confidence. And we'll 
hope that if there is an outbreak, he may be the 
first victim." 

" I guess I'll have to stay with you on that," 
replied Kalph. 



IX 



Trouble had been brewing at the Agency for 
months, and the more observing officers had 
Avatched its progress with apprehension. It was 
the old story of dishonesty that has so character- 
ized dealing wdth the Indians that it seems futile 
to expect anything else. Ralph, whom enthusi- 
asts declared to be a better officer drunk than some 
others were sober, had been sent there to wit- 
ness an issue of annuity goods ; and he came away 
with the fixed conviction that the Indian had no 
rights that a trader was bound to respect. He 
made a report intended to convey this belief, and 
went so far as to recount certain charges he was 
minded to prefer ; but it was impossible to sub- 
stantiate them, owing to the care that had been 
taken to place liquor in his vicinity during the 
issue, so nothing came of it. 

Colonel Gerrish received Ralph's report of the 
dissatisfaction of the Indians thoughtfully ; and 
thereafter he was more than ever attentive to the 
theoretical field work of his command. He accus- 
tomed the men to considerable marches, and his 
inspections of equipment were notable for their 



ox THE OFFENSIVE 215 

severity. The camp equipage was kept up to tlie 
requirements for field service, and the garrison, 
without knowing it, was in constant readiness for 
an emergency call. 

There was but one thing the Indian could do 
when his wrongs became unbearable ; he could go 
on the warpath, and be whipped again into sub- 
mission. That was not always the excuse for an 
outbreak — sometimes there was none ; for the In- 
dian takes delight in that which the civilized man 
beholds with horror. But this time the outbreak 
that threatened was clearly traceable to the cupid- 
ity of the traders. 

The things that an Indian needs are two — food 
against his hunger, and clothing against his naked- 
ness ; and he who goes about to cheat him will 
succeed on one or both of these lines. It may be 
that a wagon will be driven to the distributing 
house with a load of blankets. They are unloaded, 
receipt given, delivery vouched for. Then they 
may be rolled out through the back door, re-loaded 
on the wagon, and taken away to do duty again 
and again ; and the Indian goes unclothed, he suf- 
fers from cold, and his rage smoulders. Or it may 
be that the beef contractor, driving in a herd, will 
have in it two or three heavy creatures, while the 
others Avill be gaunt and small, with a prejjonder- 
ance of bone over flesh. The large beeves will be 
driven upon the scales, their weight taken as the 
average of the herd, issue made on this basis, and 



21G OX THE OFFENSIVE 

then they will be taken away to do duty again and 
again ; and the Indian is unfed, he is hungry, and 
his rage smoulders. By and by he ceases dwelling 
on his wrongs, and springs into action. That is 
not so bad. Even to civilized man, sudden death, 
from which he prays to be delivered, is better than 
freezing and starving. But the Indian is not often 
killed ; he is caught alive and herded back to the 
reservation, there to undergo the process again and 
again. It is a pity that traders and contractors so 
seldom gather the fruit of their deeds ; the army 
is the reaper in this case, reaping faithfully where 
it has not sown. 

At the Agency upon which the attention of Col- 
onel Gerrish was so anxiously turned, the Indians 
were bomitifully supplied with but one commodity 
— ammunition. Tlie}^ received a certain allowance 
for the spring hunt, which should supplement their 
government supplies. But the buffalo were gone, 
and other large game was scarce. One would not 
have thought they had need of such quantities of 
ammunition as they applied for. Yet they got it 
upon application. When they exceeded the allow- 
ance, they bought greedily, paying in skins and 
ponies. The trader saw a pretty penny in pros- 
pect for himself at this rate ; and so long as he 
did not have the trouble of harvesting, he did 
not care Avhat the crop might be, even to whirl- 
winds. 

The trader sent out occasional letters, remarking 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 21 T 

on the peaceful bent of the Indians, These aided 
him in securing ammunition with which to supply 
them. One da}^, he wired a message that his In- 
dians were becoming gloomy and sullen. This was 
later, when the demand for ammunition had been 
well satisfied, and he thought of sending his fami- 
ly east for a change. Colonel Gerrish immedi- 
ately had an inspection to satisfy himself that his 
command was in good fighting and marching trim. 
A little later came another message saying that the 
Indians were becoming insolent and aggressive ; 
the trader said he did not understand it, but they 
appeared menacing, and he was endeavoring to 
pacify them. Colonel Gerrish sent for Captains 
Burns and Lyndon and quietly bade them see 
that there was nothing amiss with their companies, 
as they might be wanted any day ; and he kept in 
constant communication with department head- 
quarters. The trader, now in a panic, sent more 
messages, imploring assistance; the Indians were 
beyond his control, and could only be held in check 
by the presence of troops. And he closed thus : 
" For God's sake, send troops." 

This message was received early one April morn- 
ing ; and a few minutes later Colonel Gerrish re- 
ceived another from department headquarters, di- 
recting him to despatch two companies to the 
Agency immediately, holding the remainder of his 
force ready to follow them. When this came the 
troops of the post were disposed at their accus- 



218 OJY THE OFFENSIVE 

tomed peaceful labors. There was no sound or 
thought of danger anywhere. 

Suddenly the trim orderly ran out by the flag- 
staff and blew officers' call in a way that made old 
captains, mumbling over their eggs at breakfast, 
toss their heads like disabled war horses. Before 
the notes ceased singing from his bugle, half a 
dozen lieutenants were cutting corners on their 
way to the headquarters building ; and after them 
came older, sedater men, who walked \ni\\ dignity 
because of wounds and rheumatism. One and all, 
they gathered in the colonel's office, heard the two 
messages read and an order issued for Burns and 
Lyndon to take the field at once. That was all, 
gentlemen — unless someone had something to sug- 
gest? The colonel hesitated courteously. 

Some one had. Half a dozen disappointed lieu- 
tenants at once made verbal application to be at- 
tached as supernumerary officers to the command, 
and to be allowed to accompany it forthwith on 
the expedition. Colonel Gerrish looked inquir- 
ingly at Captain Burns, the senior captain ordered 
out ; he, seeing that his preference was being con- 
sidered, shook his head decidedly. He had offi- 
cers enough, and the ones he wanted. Colonel 
Gerrish at once refused the request of the lieuten- 
ants, to their unutterable chagrin ; and the assem- 
blage dispersed more quickly even than it had 
come together. 

Ralph and Spurbridge had just time, as they 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 219 

emerged from the office, to toucli hands in congrat- 
nlation. One of the disappointed took the breath 
out of Spurbridge with a forceful punch in the 
ribs, and hissed : 

"D— n the luck! Suppose you won't transfer 
with me now, will you ? " 

" Give you my chance of heaven first ! " Spur- 
bridge shouted joyfully to the envious one ; and he 
dashed up the line to his quarters. On the way 
he passed his captain, who was older and could 
not run so fast. He had stopped, and was mak- 
ing signals across the parade to his first sergeant. 

" Shall I run over there. Captain ? " he asked, 
out of breath, 

" Nope, He understands. Hurry, or the com- 
pany'U be ready first," 

Quickly Spurbridge ran on up the line. He 
met Lydia Gerrish ; she held out her hand and 
asked him a question with her eyes. 

"We're headed for the Agency," he breathed, 
exultantly. " Can't stop." But he caught her 
hand in a momentary pressure as he went by. 
She forced the deep concern from her face, and 
smiled after him. 

He felt, rather than saw, that the life of each 
household he passed was suspended in agonizing 
apprehension ; children ceased plajdng, and pale 
women would have detained him for information. 
He reached his quarters, and made a dash for the 
quickest change of rig ever witnessed. How glad 



220 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

lie was that Ralpli bad warned him, and that he 
was prepared ! Trousers of the firmest cloth ; 
woollen socks, slightly soaped to prevent blisters ; 
strong, broad, marching shoes, laced well up ; leg- 
gins ; a loose, easy blouse, with an unconscious 
glance of pride at the shoulder-straps he was to 
wear into a campaign ; slouch hat ; belt, sword, 
revolver, cartridges, blanket — all complete. He 
rushed out, dimly conscious of hoarse voices 
shouting, of feet that had been hurrying by as he 
changed his rig. He believed no one could have 
been so expeditious as he. 

He looked up and down the line. There were 
Burns, and Lyndon, and Ralph — all out before 
him ! Lawrence alone he had beaten. That was 
a grateful reflection, for Lawrence was accounted 
the best man of all. Someone ran by, calling for 
the doctor ; Mrs. Lawrence has fainted. Ah, well ! 
no glory in beating a man under such circum- 
stances ; and just then Lawrence came running 
forth, buckling a belt as he came. 

Straight across the parade lay the company 
barracks. A big, blue wagon, with a team of 
six mules, stood in front of each. Men were just 
tossing in the last bundles of equipage ; the coffee, 
bacon, and hard bread had been slid in while the 
mules were being harnessed. Two or three garri- 
son prisoners, released from confinement to march 
with their companies, leaped with joy as though 
to go upon a pleasure jaunt. The companies were 



Orf THE OFFENSIVE 221 

ready to form ; men were settling blanket bags on 
their shoulders, and sagging prairie belts, heavy 
with cartridges, about their hips. The band was 
out, and the field music was stringing up its drums 
with portentous taps of the stick. Those of the 
garrison who were not going stood about and 
shouted meny advice to those who were ; they 
were covering their chagrin. The worst luck a 
company could have, in that company's opinion, 
was not to be at the head of the roster for field 
service. Those who were going, swaggered — they 
were so conscious of being the flower of the flock. 

The doctor's ambulance came briskly trotting 
up from the hospital, with a hospital steward in 
charge. This was reassming to those who could 
not go ; had there been a prospect of real fighting, 
the surgeon himself would have gone. The faces 
of the elect fell a little. 

This was all lost on the women of the garrison. 
It was enough for them that troops were going out 
on a moment's notice. The wives and daughters 
of the married soldiers crowded the spaces be- 
tween barracks and wailed aloud. They knew 
they would see those loved faces no more, and 
they were uncomforted by the occasional impa- 
tient " "WTiisht now ! " from those they publicly 
mourned in advance. Over on the line were the 
ofiicers' families, more decorous in a grief that 
was no less poignant. The ladies held their 
handkerchiefs in their hands, ready to wave 



222 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

clieerily, and looked with strained, dry eyes upon 
the preparations. Among them were some who 
came half-way across the parade. Lydia walked 
as far as that with her father, and then waited till 
he should have looked the companies OA^er for the 
last time. Spurbridge, seeing her, got an assent- 
ing nod from his captain, and dashed over to her. 

" I wish you'd do me a favor," he said. " Just 
drop my mother a line, please ? Say I didn't have 
time to write — unexpected duty^ — no danger, you 
know — just sudden call. She'll thank you, and 
so will I." 

" Yes, I'll do that for you," she said. He took 
her hand — or found hers in his — neither knew 
how it was, for they were looking in each other's 
faces silently. However it was, it was natural. 

" Good-by," they said. She returned his hand- 
pressure. They were under the eyes of the garri- 
son, but did not know it. Then he darted back 
to his company and took his place in the line of 
file closers just as the excitable field music gave 
some premonitory ruffles on the drums. Ealph, 
at the next company, saw that leave-taking — and 
gnawed at his mustache, and cursed — himself. 

Then the band burst forth in a terrible roar of 
brass, and reed, and drum beat. They were to 
play the column out of the post. There was a last 
wail from the soldiers' wives, a last wave of the 
handkerchief from those of the officers. Law- 
rence, verv white, looked straight to the front as 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 223 

he tramped away. Balpli, fierce with himself, 
gave no one a glance. The others nodded as they 
passed the assembled garrison and so struck out 
on the road for the Agency. A small cloud of 
boys and dogs, endeared to them by the band and 
the glamour that attends upon fighting men when 
dusty and in battle trim, followed them for a half- 
mile. But they deserted when the band turned 
back, and the two-company column took up its 
march alone. 

At the Agency the anxiety became more press- 
ing and well founded as each day went by. The 
Indians strolled into places generally denied them, 
as though to encourage reproof. Their glances 
were malignant, and full of menace. They held 
pow-pows that were not for peace. They invaded 
the home of the trader himself, and looked upon 
his wife and daughters with eyes that sent chilly 
shivers over them for hours after. The painted, 
hideous faces of bucks would be pressed against 
■windows so suddenly and so stealthily as to evoke 
cries of alarm from those within. Nerves were 
shaken ; and the trader was at his wits' end. He 
had counted on getting aAvay before matters should 
take so serious a turn ; but he had been prevented, 
and now he was wild with fear. He was tele- 
graphing for troops every day, and was but little 
comforted by assurances that a force was on the 
road. Would it get there in time to save him ? 



224 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

was what lie continually asked himself ; for the 
way was long, the road difficult and sure to be 
watched by the hostiles. He feared for himself 
and his family, knowing that Indians were no re- 
specters of persons ; and he burthenod the wire 
with messages, even after he was satisfied that 
Burns's force was within three days' march. 

Then what he had feared came to pass ; the tel- 
egraph line ceased working. The Indians had cut 
the wire ; it was part of their devilish Avork. Cer- 
tain he could not escape them, they were playing 
with him, letting him die a hundred deaths daily, 
before they should strike the blow that would end 
it all. 

He felt that the crisis was approaching. When 
messages failed to reach the strong stations be- 
yond, greater alarm would be felt than if he had 
continued to pray for trooj^s, and troops would be 
speedily despatched ; but the Indians would not 
delay so long that succor might reach him. Now 
they were bolder, more menacing than ever. They 
thrust their hideously painted faces into his, 
stalked through the Agency buildings at will, took 
whatever pleased their fancy, killed stock mali- 
ciously, danced all night. Their fires burned 
always ; signal smokes made ominous the rugged 
peaks and headlands about ; and the bucks were 
assembling in full strength. The little command 
under Burns was but two days' march away ; would 
it arrive before the Indians' blow should be de- 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 225 

livered ? The trader's hand shook as he examined 
his small arsenal, and estimated the stand he could 
make against the entire tribe ; and the lips of his 
wife and daughters moved often in prayer during 
those days of suspense. And meanwhile the In- 
dians danced and chanted about their fires, em- 
bodying in their manner threats more fearful than 
could be put in words. 

The next day Indians in great numbers thronged 
about the Agency, jeering, mimicking, and making 
of themselves devils. They thrust themselves in 
the way of the trader, and accused him of being 
white-hearted. He was afraid. He had sent for 
soldiers. The soldiers had started, but they had 
not come. No, and they never would come. Then 
they would go through horribly suggestive contor- 
tions, indicating conflict, death, and the mutilation 
of bodies of the slain. Where were his soldiers 
now ? they jeered ; and then told him to ask of 
the buzzard, the coyote, the unclean beasts that 
gather about carrion. The soldiers marched with 
their eyes shut. They had walked into a trap. 
They had not time to fire a gun before they 
were surrounded and killed. Short, sharp, quick 
work it was, and the Indians had not lost a 
man. 

When the trader made a strong display of cour- 
age and refused to believe their boasting, they 
offered horrible evidence. They displayed bits of 
soldier apparel. They waved bloody scalps. And 
15 



226 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

with it all they whooped around the Agency build- 
ings, working themselves into an ungovernable 
passion for murder and rapine. The trader tried 
not to believe the horrible assertions of massacre ; 
but he knew that, by nightfall, the little column 
should not have been more than one daj^'s march 
away, and he thought that by an effort it might 
have already reached the Agency. This gave 
color to the tale ; but still he resolutely pooh- 
poohed it, and encouraged his family to hope for 
relief. There was one weak point in the Indians' 
story, and that gave him strength to believe that 
the whole was of their diabolical imagining. 

That morning, the courier, upon whom the 
Agency now depended for communication Avitli the 
world, had ridden forth. His route took him over 
the line of march of the troops, and he should 
have met them if they were still coming, or likely 
have perished with them if they had been ambus- 
caded. But in their boasting the Indians made 
no mention of him. They had not missed him 
from the Agency, and believed that no word had 
been sent out since the wire was cut — since they 
had fairly invested the place. Their silence re- 
garding the courier was the one relieving feature 
uj)on which the trader could rely. 

When the courier prepared to leave the Agency, 
he and the trader together made a necessity of 
cinching the saddle more firmly than usual, of in- 



ON THE oFFEysiru 227 

spectiiig the pony's feet, and of taking one look 
into each other's eyes. 

" Well," said the trader, " I guess it depends on 
you." 

" Well," responded the courier, " I c'n do it or 
die. There ain't nuthin' else for it." He had one 
hand on the pommel of the saddle, and with the 
other he pulled his belt around so that the re- 
volver came easily to hand. " An' I ain't dyiu' 
neither, so fur's heard from," he added, grimly. 

" The hoss don't matter." 

"Oh, I expect t' kill him by the time I git 
tlier," said the courier. He swung himself into 
the saddle, and settled himself, flat-thighed, for 
the work before him. 

" Well, take care of yom-self. Keep an eye out," 
the trader cautioned him, in friendly spirit. 

" That's what," the courier replied, easily. He 
raised the reins, and the pony ambled away. 
" Adios ! " he flung back, cheerily, over his shoul- 
der. 

Then he pressed the spur suggestively against 
the pony's ribs, and cantered out of the Agency by 
an unusual route, making a detour that took him 
through a rough valley or two, and finally brought 
him upon the broad trail a couple of miles from 
the Agency. He rode on at a swinging trot, not- 
ing each accident of the surface, each clump of 
bush, well in his advance. Nothing within easy 
shot remained unscauned. His mount, a wiry. 



228 OX THE OFFENSIVE 

uncouth little beast, went on in a fashion that the 
courier knew he could maintain for days ; but he 
intended to spur him to a faster gait later, when 
the stars should be set on high, and the night be 
still, and he farther away from the dangerous 
neighborhood. He would not ride so fast now 
that he could not reconnoitre the road as he Avent. 
His sole ambition for the pony was that it should 
last till he could reach help. 

He came to a high bluff at the foot of which 
ran the creek that, later in its course, supplied the 
Agency with water. On the other side his road 
la}' by it for a mile through thick willows, winding 
so sinuously that he Avould be able to see nothing 
a rod before or behind him. This was the X)lace 
he held in particular dread ; if he was to be am- 
buscaded anywhere on his route, it would be in 
there. Before reaching the top of the bluff he 
halted, dismounted, and leaving the pony hidden 
behind the crest, crept forward to peer over at the 
valley beloAV. 

At the foot of the steep incline leading down to 
the ford was an Indian, panoplied for war. The 
sun brought out the bright colors of his headdress 
and showed the symbols on his blanket. He Avas 
mounted, and was stopping that his pony might 
drink. He carried a rifle across the saddle, and 
amused himself as the pony drank by holding it 
out at arm's length by the stock, and sighting 
alon"' the barrel. He had no thouGiht of beingj ob- 



ox THE OFF EX Sir E 229 

served. The courier's grip on his revolver tight- 
ened, but he would not risk the shot ; the distance 
was considerable, and morever steeply descend- 
ing, and there might be many Indians withm 
hearing. He had no wish, single-handed, to pre- 
cipitate a conflict ; his errand was far different. 

Then the Indian pulled up the pony's head, 
crossed by the ford, and disappeared among the 
willows. When he had been out of sight ten min- 
utes the courier crawled back to his pony and went 
down to the water. He, too, crossed, and was lost 
in the silent depths of the willows. 

He had never been in a place that he so de- 
voutly wished himself out of. Above, silence ; to 
the right, silence ; below, the dull thudding of his 
pony's hoofs ; on the left, the creek, talking melo- 
dious nonsense to the willow-roots, for it had no 
sense of the fitness of things. Otherwise, it 
would have hushed itself, and permitted the cou- 
rier to command the execrable silence that threat- 
ened him. He was a brave man in the face of 
danger, but he w^anted to be face to face with it — 
to realize it for what it A^as. This was a still, 
hovering, impending menace ; it was not only 
invisible, but it was cloaking itself in silence. 
He wished that lie could make himself invisible, 
could make the pony gallop on air. Every turn 
of the road gave new possibilities of a lurking foe ; 
every turn behind but wound him the more deeply 
into the depths of danger. He rode on, leaning 



280 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

forward over the pony's neck, his eyes straining 
to catch a first glimpse of a dusky form ; his right 
hand chitched the revolver. His bearing from the 
waist up was strained, tense. When he cast a 
backward glance, his teeth were clenched, his 
breath came hurriedly. He was alert, ready to 
face in any direction whence danger should 
threaten. He felt that it must be in there, some- 
where ; the Indian who had preceded him at the 
ford might easily have turned aside with natural 
cunning to watch for whatever might pass. He 
had not done so yet — the courier could see the 
fresh earth cast up by his pony's hoofs. When he 
noticed that, he felt reassured, and used the spur ; 
he would hurry through there and get to the 
broad light of the winding hill country, where it 
was not every step that offered chance for an am- 
buscade. 

He rode forth into the unfiltered light of day with 
so deep a relief that the pony might have noticed 
a diminution in his burden. His hand dropped 
from the revolver, and he uttered a gay chirrup. 
The sturdy little beast responded nobly ; he did 
not know he was to be ridden to death. 

Suddenly the courier swerved from the beaten 
trail, and picked a way by hill reckoning through 
unsuspected passes and along narrow paths where 
never a road had been. It was a long and hard 
detour, made in the interests of safety. The main 
road, though shorter, offered so manv chances for 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 231 

waylaying that the coiirier flattered his valor by 
caltivating his discretion. Then he came into the 
road again, and it stretched before him, glimmer- 
ing white in the strong midday sun, away over five 
good miles of level land, where not so much as a 
coyote might find shelter from inquisitive eyes. 
This gladdened him as an opportunity sent of Pro- 
vidence, and he drove the pony at it with an unre- 
lenting vigor of haste. 

On he went, a lengthening wall of white dust 
stretching behind him in the still air. Presently 
he came to a place where the road forked ; one 
trail led away to the north, where cavahy was 
stationed. The courier passed it in a white swirl- 
ing whirl, tending east toward the nearer post 
where Colonel Gerrish commanded. Somewhere 
along that road he would find two companies 
marching in. 

A golden mist that he noted in his front soon 
resolved itself into a cloud of dust, and he knew it 
could be but one of two things ; more Indians 
moving in mass — hardly possible — or the troops. 
Presently he was able to distinguish the glint of 
the sun on burnished surfaces, and his heart gave 
a great bound of thankfulness. He could make out 
the military order of the column, the slant of the 
rifles, the rhythm of step. Small detached dots far 
out on the sides he perceived were flankers, beat- 
ing up the country for a Ivirking foe. He went on 
at his best pace to meet the body. 



232 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

" You want to strike a gait, that's all," said the 
courier, when Captain Burns, in another minute, 
demanded news. " Ther's no time to lose. Wen 
I come away they was firin' guns. They's sassy, 
and imperdent, and mean biz, th' way I see it." 
He paused, and twisted a huge chew of tobacco 
from a plug with his teeth. 

"How many are there?" Captain Burns de- 
manded, with nervous impatience. 

" Injuns ? You've got me. Five hunderd sure ; 
million, maybe." 

Burns tore a scrap from an envelope he found in 
his pocket, and wrote a message to Colonel Gerrish. 
" Guess that's all, isn't it ? " he asked, giving it to 
the courier. 

" That's all, I guess," replied the courier, tuck- 
ing the note in a pocket and trotting away. The 
column swung forward, and lost itself from the 
courier in its own dust. 

The column was arranged to guard against the 
possibility of a surprise. The wagons kept close 
up ; flankers and advance guard radiated from the 
main body like sticks of a fan. Ralph was far in 
front with the most advanced, directing their move- 
ments. Better that a few good men should be 
picked off on that duty than that the entii-e com- 
mand should be sacrificed. 

Burns, tramping at the head of the column, mo- 
tioned Lyndon to join him. The soldiers noticed 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 233 

this, and felt a sudden affection for their rifles. 
Lidian sign was everywhere. 

"The crossing is only three miles from the 
Agency," Burns said. "It is nearly twenty from 
here, though. We would have to make a night 
march to get there, now." 

" We should be cut to pieces in the willows at 
night," Lyndon urged. " It's risk enough by day, 
but we do have a fighting chance then." 

Burns shook his head. " They won't let us get 
to the willows. We shall catch it before that, if at 
all." 

They plodded on, mile after mile, while their 
shadows grew long, and they began to think of camp 
and supper. The long stretch of the five-mile 
prairie was behind, and hills rose about them in 
the gathering gloom. Then, suddenly, far in their 
front, sounded a rifle-shot ; then another, and an- 
other. Lyndon fell back to his own company. 

" We've got it now ! " cried Burns, his lips part- 
ing in a singular smile. 

A quick thrill ran along the entire column, a thrill 
of surprise that made the men turn white beneath 
their dust and sunburn. They saw nothing to fire 
at ; was the enemy to fall upon them from the sky ? 
Lyndon saw the wave of the tremor. " Steady, 
men, steady there ! " he called, warningiy. The 
men responded to his deep tone admirably, and 
settled to a steady pace as though on drill. 

The firing thickened in front, and a man could 



234 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

be seen, runniug back. Sliots began among the 
encompassing hills ; the sound echoed back and 
forth, rattling like a firing by file. Five hundred 
yards out on the right, a flanker pitched forward 
on his face, kicked twice, and lay motionless. 
Spurbridge saw him, and thought with a shock 
that this was war — this was what he had wanted 
to see. His fellows were being killed ; did he en- 
joy the sight ? He wondered why he had longed 
for such an experience. 

Indians began to show themselves. They 
crested the hills, dancing wildly and shouting 
derisively ; their cries came but faintly, because of 
the distance. They fired at random, and their 
bullets kicked up little sprays of white dust 
around and ahead of the column. A faint smell 
of burning powder was noticeable, causing Spur- 
bridge to choke ; he could hardly breathe, as it 
was, with his heart in his throat, beating tumult- 
uously. 

The man who ran back from the front reached 
Burns, panting. They had uncovered an ambus- 
cade, far ahead. Two men were killed — Lieuten- 
ant Ealph was falling back. Hundreds of Indi- 
ans were in front and on the hills around him. 
He spoke breathlessly, and in great excitement. 

Burns nodded, and separated two sets of fours 
at the head of the column. " Skirmish forward 
and support him," he commanded. The men 
dashed off as if upon a race. 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 235 

The flankers began to close in upon the cohimn, 
decreasing the distance from danger ; for they 
were pressed by the Indians hardily. The ad- 
vance guard was in sight — a mere handful, scat- 
tered at wide distances across the line of march, 
firing at will. Little spouts of smoke shot curl- 
ing from the ravines and hills on each hand, and 
bullets hummed about the ears of the men. Once, 
a soldier moaned, and lurched against his shoul- 
der-comrade ; instantly he was laid in the ambu- 
lance, and the progress of the column was not for 
a moment delayed. 

A small hill, tufted with clumps of trees, lay in 
the right front, and toward it Burns urged his com- 
mand. " We've got to make that hill ! " he cried, 
and the column broke into an easy dog-trot, and 
swung along as restfully as a machine. A mule, 
struck by a bullet, leaped squealing in the air 
and fell back among his fellows of the team. 
They, lashed into obedience, pulled the dead 
weight along until it could be cut clear of entan- 
gling harness. Nothing stopped the column for an 
instant. The flankers drew steadily in ; the ad- 
vance guard drifted to the side ; and finally the 
little command stood in a mass upon the coveted 
summit. 

An attack in force was evidently a matter of but 
a few moments, and there was no space for breath- 
ing. " Kill the mules ! " shouted Burns, and the 
faithful animals were led into a circle and dropped 



236 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

with a sliot apiece ; tlieir bodies would make an 
excellent breastwork. The wagons were tipped 
over and added to its strength, and all around the 
defensive circle hastily formed rifles bristled out 
defiantly. Each man flung himself solidly into 
position, ready for the charge. Not until then 
was there pause to mark the begiiming of the fight. 

The plan of the Indians had miscarried, through 
the unmasking of their ambuscade by Ralph. A 
narrow little gorge between some rocky hills, 
where every foot of ground ofi^ered chance of con- 
cealment, had been chosen. In passing through, 
the column would have been at their lack of mer- 
cy ; for it would have been compressed and strung 
out slenderly, and the flankers would have closed 
in. The courier had avoided this gorge by his 
detour. Into it Ralph proceeded cautiously. He 
sent his men to the very tops of the surrounding 
hills, and searched the ground with the utmost 
care. In climbing, one of the men came face to 
face with a painted savage. Both were equally 
ready ; two guns were discharged simultaneously, 
and two forms sank to the ground. But that ex- 
posed the whole scheme to Ralph, and he drew 
his men ofi^, losing but one more. He came back 
from the mouth of the gorge slowly, and taking 
advantage of all the cover afforded. 

This was Ralph's rapid report, but the men in 
the little circle gathered the import of it. Killeen 
supplied the information they lacked. There had 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 237 

been Indians " miles deep " in their front and on 
the flanks ; they would all be up in a minute for a 
word with the rifles. Three men were dead al- 
ready, and some were wounded. The men swore 
when they thought of this. 

" We'll pay that bloody trader when we get to 
the Agency ! " Robinson ^vhis]3ered threateningly 
to Killeen, lying at loading distance beside him. 

" We will thot ! " Killeen replied, with unneces- 
sary oaths. " It's gov'mint amm'nition they're 
firin' at us. Just let us get there : that's all ! " 

The Indians, who had been pouring out of ra\dnes 
from all directions, were massed about the foot of 
the hill, at a safe distance. To Spurbridge there 
seemed thousands of them ; he was excited beyond 
knowledge of the fact. He saw the dark throng 
swirl about the hill in angry swarms, waving their 
arms in gesticulation, their weapons making a sav- 
age display. Suddenly they seemed to divide, 
and a portion retired to a farther distance. Those 
who were left, numbering many more than the lit- 
tle band on the hill, turned their faces inward on 
the circle. A wild chant arose, a hoarse suppli- 
cation, and then the fierce throng came sweeping 
up the hill as though to grind to infinitesimal pov\-- 
der all that opposed them. As they came they 
shrieked like demons. 

All had become very still on the crest of the hill. 
Up against the Avagons and the bodies of tlio 
mules men were lying, their rifles thrust forward 



238 O.V THE OFFENSIVE 

over the slight barricade, their mouths bristling 
with Avet cartridges. It was so still that Spur- 
bridge could distinguish the sound of his own 
breathing, the distinct beating of his own heart. 
He was surprised at this, for he was saying to 
himself that he was as calm as he had ever been. 
The excitement of the march under fire had passed, 
and he watched the onset with a curious delight. 
He knew, as he knew of heaven, that the wave 
rushing toward him would soon break back down 
the hill, leaving contorted elements of itself to 
mark where it once had been. 

Suddenly he was recalled to himself by Ealph, 
who rushed at him v.dth a rifle and a belt of cart- 
ridges. "What are you standing up for? Get 
down and work ! " he cried, breathlessly. Spur- 
bridge saw then that, but for himself, not a head 
was exjDOsed above the line of defence. Every 
man who could pull a trigger lay there, Avaiting 
for the signal to pull it and speed death in the as- 
saulting throng. And the next moment Burns's 
pistol cracked in the silence of the hill-top, above 
the din of the shrieking charge, and immediately 
the circle was, rimmed with lire. It tipped ilio 
top of the wave Avith flame, and the leaden bullets 
sang a glad song as they tore their Avay through 
the opposing flesh and tendon. Spurbridge felt 
liimself roused to enthusiasm by the din, and he 
pumped on the rifle as fiercely as he could. lie 
thought of nothi'.ig, nothing, but of filling the uir 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 239 

in his front witli hissing lead. And then, through 
the smoke, he became aware that the space before 
him was cleared, that the Indians had gone back, 
that the firing was ceasing, and that the exultation 
of victory w-as upon his comrades. They were 
leaping to their feet, screaming, cheering, cursing, 
grasping one another about the waist, standing in 
view of the foe and shouting insults. Ah, it was 
grand, grand, GRAND ! It w^as a moment to live 
for. That was the joy and delight of a soldier's 
life, the heart of a soldier's heart. It was worth 
not alone living for — it was worth dying for. 

He had not connected the ripping sound in the 
air as he stood with bullets ; it had not occurred to 
him that the Indians had fired a shot. But as he 
looked around, as the men became disciplined sol- 
diers once more, he saw that some had died for 
that moment of sv/eet elation to him. There were 
two or three who lay motionless, as though they 
had been suddenly crumpled up and dropped 
from the hand. On their faces was a look of sur- 
prise, for they had not comprehended what was 
happening to them. And there were some who 
writhed and screamed in pain. Men who w ere un- 
harmed looked at their nearest comrades to see if 
perchance they were yei there. They seemed un- 
real, moving about aimlessly, their rifles still 
smoking thinly, the barrels blistering hot to the 
hand. The air was heavy Avith the smell of burned 
powder, its white clouds lying close and thick over 



2-10 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

the position. Voices were almost unrecognizable 
to him, for his ears yet rang with the rattle of 
rifles and the roar and shout of the Indians. And 
then the sulphur smell floated away on the clear 
air, and its choking thickness was replaced by the 
sickening smell of warm blood, rising from little 
ruddy streams that had started to become rivers, 
had then ceased flowing, and had coagulated into 
ponds and lagoons. He saw Burns and Lyndon 
moving about, assuring the men that they had 
done wonders ; and then he found Eali:)li shak- 
ing him by the shoulder and shouting in his 
ear : 

" Well, old man, you're all right ? Not hurt a 
bit, are you ? " 

He grinned feebly, and wiped his face with a 
smudgy hand, smearing both over. " Oh, I'm all 
right. HoAv is it ? Have we done them ? " 

" Done them ? I should say we had ! Not one 
of 'em within shot now! And you did nobly — 
hun^ to it like a veteran ! " 

" Oh, what else could I do ? " Spurbridge asked, 
still laughing weakly. Now that the shock was 
past he was quivering all over. 

•The sun had dropped lingeringly beyond the 
western ridges as the Indians, despairing of storm- 
ing the hill with a force of ten to one, di'ifted away, 
and now twilight was fast deepening into night. 
The stars came into view, pricking through the 
space of their distances, and shed a glinting, un- 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 241 

certain liglit over the wild, tumbled country. A 
young moon among the sky mountains gave cer- 
tainty to their shining in a pale, frightened way. 
The outlines of the land were changed as by 
magic ; hills stood out boldly where hills had not 
been, and turned sudden knife edges of ridge to 
the light, cutting off at once into black depth of 
shadow. Ravines and gullies could only be 
guessed at. The sparse trees stood like black 
sentinels about the slopes, and scattered rocks be- 
came crouching animals of every degree. 

Most of the men remained lying about the cir- 
cle as they had taken position for defence. Some 
were resting, others were scanning the ascending 
slopes for moving objects. They were very quiet, 
murmuring together in subdued tones. Then the 
cooks, aroimd the little tires, sheltered from ob- 
servation in hollows, uttered one word, " Chuck ! " 
and the men drifted toward them in glad obe- 
dience to the summons. The smell of coffee and 
frying strip bacon saluted their famished nostrils ; 
for they had made a long march and fought a hard 
fight since being fed. And as officers and men 
gathered almost indiscriminately about the cooks' 
pans, Spurbridge found a comfort in that close 
compression of humanity. All were men facing 
danger together. Soldiers obeyed officers, but the 
officers came among them more familiarly than his 
little experience had shown him. They were very 
near, one to the other. The greasy cartridge was 
16 



242 0^'' THE OFFENSIVE 

an emblem of their fraternity, and belts but bonds 
thereto. 

On through the night they lay within their 
circle, while the stars swept grandly overhead and 
lent some of their serenity to these harried mortals. 
The sentinels were many, and were unceasing in 
their yigilance. Frequently, from the black depths 
of a ravine, a rifle would crack spitefully, sending 
out a stream of red venom toward the hill, and 
showing that Indians still hedged them in. But 
they made no attack. They had adopted waiting 
tactics, which were quite as certain and much 
safer, if they were left to carry them out. They 
would risk no more lives ; they would wait for 
thirst and hunger to drive the white men mad, 
when the}^ would be easy victims, and would fur- 
nish choice sport in the torture. Burns, a grizzled 
old Indian campaigner, was satisfied this was what 
they Avould do ; and so he was alert in cautioning 
the men to cherish every drop of watei", and to eat 
sparingly. 

"If you get hungry, cinch your belts up a 
notch ; and if you're thirsty, forget it," he growled, 
half jokingly. The men nodded ; they rather liked 
to be approached in that way. 

When morning dawned, the fire of the Indians 
began to assert itself unpleasantly. From the sur- 
rounding hills their bullets dropped about the 
camp. Sometimes they skulked under cover near 
enough to shout insults to the white men, and took 



ox THE OFFENSIVE 243 

deliglit in dwelling on tlieir lack of courage. 
" You are cowards ! " they shouted. " Come out 
and fight honest ! You are all afraid ! " 

This served the purpose of irritating the men, 
and caused them to throw away many good cart- 
ridges. The officers cautioned them, and had to 
maintain a watch that they should not expend 
ammunition uselessly. It was limited, and if the 
time came when they had none, they would be 
completely at the pleasure of the Indians. 

As the sun rose hot and high, the scarcity of 
water became felt. Many men, despite advice, 
had emptied their canteens to gratify slight thirst, 
and had not a drop. The feverish v/ounded cried 
for water unceasingly, and there was none for 
them ; at the best their lips might be moistened 
from time to time. There was no supply on which 
to draw. Burns collected all there was in camp 
and put a guard over it ; for upon it the existence 
of the command seemed likely to depend. 

In their desperate strait, with the end of the 
ammunition in sight, the ration running low, and 
the Avater practically gone, but one consolation re- 
mained to them : the Indians could not know how 
nearly exhausted their supplies were. They had 
been rationed for a week, but they could put on as 
brave a front as though it had been for a month. 
There was little danger of another charge upon 
them, and the long-range practice of the Indians 
v/as execrable. Their bullets made an uncomfort- 



244 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

able shrieking in tlie air, but few found tlieir way 
into camp. So the men lay about in their con- 
tracted circle, and made a determined effort at calm 
enjoyment of the situation. 

Whatever its privations, the command never 
faltered in its assurance that, somehow, it would 
come through all right. That was soldiers' fatal- 
ism ; they hnew they could depend on succor of 
some kind in the last pinch of the emergency. 
Some of the younger, less experienced ones, may 
have had uneasy moments; but they were not 
made public, and the assumption was that the 
camp was for pleasure — albeit pleasure of a grim 
and thrilling kind — and that v.hen it pleased them 
to break camp and go on they would do so. Ivil- 
leen was strong in setting forth this theory with all 
the persuasiveness of his Irish tongue ; and as a 
laugh w^as something to be encouraged, he flattered 
himself that he was making so good an impression 
that he could get drunk with impunity upon re- 
turn to the post. The captain would never court- 
martial so good a soldier as he for the mere offence 
of drunkenness ! 

Some time in the second night Ralph and Spur- 
bridge found themselves drawn a little apart from 
the others, and talking in whispers. 

" This seems like the genuine thing," Spur- 
bridge hazarded. 

"No ear -marks wanting, I believe," Ralph as- 
sented. "All the accessories are here, even to the 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 245 

Indian yells, coming in at intervals like a well- 
trained chorus." 

" Oh, it's realistic enough. We're even getting 
doAvn to cases for something to eat and drink. 
That's the worst of it." 

" It won't seem so bad once you get away from 
it. This will be an experience to write about," 
Ralph said, indulgently. 

Spurbridge shook his head in repugnance. " I'll 
never want to mention it." He hesitated a moment, 
and then went on, with a little tremor : " Mention 
it ! I'll never have the chance. Ralph, it doesn't 
seem to me that we're ever going to get out of it." 

" Oh, nonsense ! " said Ralph, gripping his arm 
with energetically friendly fingers. " This is noth- 
ing but a bagatelle, when you come to that. You're 
a little rattled, that's all— and you have done well 
thus far, too. I heard Burns saying to Lawrence 
he never saw a youngster do any better than you 
have." 

" Did he say that ? " Spurbridge asked, \nih. a 
momentary flash of pride. 

" He did, indeed ! And Lawrence had noticed 
you, too." 

" Well, I'm mighty glad to have made a little 
record of that sort," said Spurbridge. "You know 
the garrison seemed hostile to me for a while, 
there. I didn't like that." 

"You've proved yourself now," Ralph replied; 
" only, don't spoil it all by croaking. We'll get 



246 OiV THE OFFENSIVE 

out of it, somehow ; we always have, and our hick 
isu't going back on us at this late clay." 

" But it's the suffering of the thing that knocks 
me out, Ralph. Those poor fellows wounded 
there and begging for water, when there isn't a 
drop anywhere round. And to see the others with 
cracked and bleeding lips and swollen tongues — 
not saying a word, you know, bluffing it out, but 
just dying for a swallow of Avater — it breaks me all 
up. Of course I wouldn't give it aAvay to anyone 
but ,you." 

" And you can bet I won't betnxy your confi- 
dence," returned R;dph, laughing a little, and pat- 
ting the young fellow's shoulder. 

The}^ were silent, Avhile the stars came out in yet 
greater numbers to look upon the uidioly things 
being done in an obscure corner of the earth. 
Ralph whistled, yawned, and tried to see the time 
by his watch. Failing, he stood up and got the 
starlight on the face of it ; even this Avas too faint, 
and he grumbled as he struck a match and shield- 
ed the blaze Avith his hand. An ansAvering flame 
sped from the depth of the night, and a bullet 
sang overhead. 

" Good line shot, but a trifle high," Ralph ob- 
served, pocketing his Avatch. He held the burn- 
ing match above his head at arm's length, inviting 
shots, till it went out. " No improA'ement," h<i 
said, sitting down. " Funny, Indians never do 
learn to use a rifle." 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 247 

"How long do you reckon we can keep this 
thing up ? " Spui'bridge asked, suddenly. 

" Till we're relieved," was the curt reply. 

"And when will that be ? " 

" Just in the nick of time," Ralph replied, im- 
perturbably. "Look here!" he said. "If you 
think fate has gone back on us you're way off. 
Or — but you don't call it ' fate,' do j'ou ? Well, 
why not make use of your faith ? Why don't you 
pray, if you believe in it ? Lots of good soldiers 
have." 

" Oh, I do believe in it ; but a fellow doesn't go 
out and shout prayers the way Indians do their 
taunts," said Spurbridge. 

"No, that's so," said Ealph, as though he had 
thought that was the way. " Well, you're fighting 
and praying on the right side, I guess. It doesn't 
seem as if we ought to be sacrificed for the sins of 
that trader — I guess the devil's got him by this 
time ! " 

" No, it wouldn't seem right, from our point of 
view," Spurbridge admitted. 

Ealph chuckled softly to himself. " Guess I'll 
go over where my fellows are," said he presently, 
as Spurbridge was quiet. " I pre-empted a hubbly 
portion of the earth's bosom, and I will fit myself 
to it and try to sleep. Are you with me on that 
question ? " 

" Yes, might as well," Spurbridge ya^^^led. All 
was still in the camp, save for muffled tones and 



248 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

deep breathing. Sentinels were watching vigil- 
antly, noiselessly. A puff of wind blew up ashes 
from the place of the cook's fire ; there were no 
embers. " Yes, I guess I'll sleep a little. Good- 
night." 



Deep apprehension was felt at tlie Fort over the 
fate of the two companies. Despatches from the 
Agency continued to tell of the critical condition 
there. Department headquarters were notified, 
and Colonel Gerrish received authority to use his 
discretion to an unusual extent. The third day 
the wire ceased working in the middle of a mes- 
sage, and after that no word came in. Colonel 
Gerrish at once put five companies on the road ; 
other military stations got orders, and in twelve 
hours a strong force of cavalry and infantry was 
converging on the Agency. Speed was required, 
for if silence was to be interpreted, troops could 
not reach there too soon. The five companies of 
Colonel Gerrish bundled themselves into wagons, 
and whirled over the level prairie miles at a spank- 
ing gait. 

The next day, as they toiled at a foot pace over 
a more diflicult country, a speck appeared on the 
white road far in their front, coming toward them. 
It soon resolved itself into a man on horseback, 
spurring hard. Nothing but dire necessity could 
compel a man to ride so at such a dist:ince from 



250 0:V" THE OFFENSIVE 

support. This was the courier from the Agency, 
riding as he had ridden day and night, save for 
breathing and feeding stops. He was ashen with 
dust, his throat was choked, and he could do no 
more than make signs and hold out Burns's mes- 
sage. A dozen flasks A^ere offered him by com- 
miserating hands, and he accepted the one near- 
est. 

" I come in considerbul hurry, Colonel," he said, 
then. " I reckon it's a case of hurry. Th' Agency's 
gone, sure ; I know it's well's I know I'm here. 
An' I reckon there's Injuns 'nough to keep them 
fellers the note's from busy till 3'ou git along." 

" All right," said the commanding officer, calm- 
ly. " Now go on into the post and rest. Will the 
pony carry you that much farther ? " 

The courier turned an indignant look upon him. 
" I don't keer 'bout th' hoss. He c'n die now 'f he 
wants to. I'm tu'nin' roun' an' goin' back 'ith 
you." 

"Glad to have you ; but I'm afraid you'll have 
to foot it." 

"I'll chance it 'ith th' boys," he replied. 

The force pressed on. It was no longer a ques- 
tion of a quick march merely, but of getting to the 
Agency in the shortest possible time. Every nerve 
was strained to accelerate the pace. The miles 
reeled off in rear of the column, rapidly ; and when 
the men lagged from vveariness, or Avlien it was 
necessary to conserve their strength, they mounted 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 251 

the wagons. They got over the ground as rapidly 
as cavah-y on an ordinary march might have done. 

As night drew in, they dropped down by the 
road for supper. They had coftee and meat, and 
smoked an easy pipe as they rested. The mules 
Avere unharnessed, fed, watered, and given a chance 
to roll and shahe. Then the teams were reassem- 
bled, and into the gathering gloom the little force 
disappeared at a brave pace. They were silent 
about it. Save for the rattle of harness or the 
clinking of metal as bits of accoutrements hit 
against each other, there was no sound but the 
tramp of many feet on the hard soil. 

In the middle of the night a halt was again 
called for a rest. The tired men flung themselves 
at full length on the ground. The mules drooped 
from the heavy strain over miles of rough road. 
And then on again the cokimn tramped, never 
swerving from its endeavor to reach the dangerous 
place, and succor those in peril. Another sundown 
might bring them into the Agency ; or if Burns's 
command had been attacked and brought to a 
stand, it would have been reached. The rescuing 
force knew no limit to its endurance. 

In the early gray of coming dawn, when the 
earth was still drows}^ and the cold light disclosed 
the outlines of rugged hills, bare of trees and stud- 
ded thick Avith rocks, they entered upon the hill 
country of the Indian reservation, in the heart of 
which lay the Agency. As the}' v.'cut the sun 



252 ON TEE OFFENSIVE 

came up, red and angry, upon their backs, and 
drove them before him with a fierce heat. About 
them, all was silent and desolate. An occasional 
Tulture of a bird flapped heayily above them, as 
though keeping an eye upon prospective carrion ; 
but through the hills there was no sign of life. 
There was a depth of silence, a degree of desola- 
tion that was oppressive, and would of itself have 
hushed the chaff of the men had they attempted 
any; but they were too weary. Their eyes were 
red with fatigue and loss of sleep, their faces were 
pale beneath the sunburn, and the alkali dust had 
fastened its ghost-like whiteness upon every par- 
ticle of exposed skin, there to irritate. But they 
carried their rifles with a due regard for their im- 
mediate usefulness, and would occasionally blow 
the dust from the breech-block, and open and close 
the chamber to assure themselves that the pieces 
were in working order. And they spurred them- 
selves on with an intensity that was all the more 
impressive because it v\^as unvoiced, and shov.'ed 
itself only in looks and actions. 

The courier, in a semi guide-like capacity, was 
with the commanding officer at the head of the 
column. It was here, he said, that he had met 
Burns's command. He explained that he had made 
a detour farther ahead to avoid bad road, and he 
thought Burns would have been attacked some- 
where along it ; certainly, the Indians knew of the 
presence of the troops as soon as ever they touched 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 253 

the borders of tlie reservation. And here was the 
trail from the north, over which the cavaky w^ould 
be coming. The commanding ofl&cer had hoped, 
in pressing the infantry march, to join forces here, 
but a ghiuce told him that the cavalry had out- 
marched him in the race. The trail was beaten to 
a white powder by the hoofs of shod horses, and 
the grass was trampled. He and his officers shook 
their heads wickedly ; the cavalry would get all 
the honors, and for themselves there would be but 
the barren satisfaction of a forced march to no 
purpose. The cavalry had gone ahead as though 
there was no infantry within a few hours' march ; 
not even a single trooper had been despatched 
down the road to open communications ; they had 
been snubbed, disregarded ; the old sore of jeal- 
ousy was reopened, and it was but sullenly that 
they still pushed on in a fulfilment of duty from 
Avhich all enthusiasm was gone. 

But the cavalry was hapj^y, although men and 
mounts were jaded. It had added to their fire to 
know that i\\&y were ahead. " This is our affair," 
was the thought that sang in their hearts ; " the 
doughboys can come along and help gather up the 
remains ; we will do the carving, and put another 
crimson bar in the shield of our regiment." So 
they had flimg themselves forward until a faint 
snapping sound was borne to their ears by the 
head breeze. It was far and away, but was un- 



254: ON THE OFFENSIVE 

mistakably rifle filing. Men who once learn are 
neyer mistaken in regard to it. The tired horses 
pricked up their ears intelligently ; the men looked 
at one another and nodded; their fatigue-lined 
faces brightened wonderfully ; all hardships were 
forgotten in the loved light of coming conflict, the 
fierce impulse to get into the fray and help their 
comrades. For never yet did Indians attack when 
there were not odds of numbers in their favor. 
There were surely hundreds against the little band 
of sixty or less who were fighting gallantly, and al- 
ways, one might be very certain, listening if the 
breeze should bring them the notes of a bugle, the 
cheers of advancing comrades. 

" Blow, bugler, blow them a blast ! Never mind 
what it is ! " The column was speeding down the 
road, guided only by the sound of rifles. And the 
bugler, putting his bugle to his lips, sent out a 
brazen blare that might well have penetrated to 
the beleaguered ones and given them a lively hope. 
The firing, now distinct, drew them like a magnet. 
They debouched into a valley, wide and strewn 
with hillocks, at the far extremity of which rose 
the hill with trees, around which circled a smoke 
of powder, and from which came defiant flame- 
spurts. 

The sight, the sound, the smell, all were as in- 
spiriting to the cavalry as the notes of a waltz to a 
gay party. The bugles tittered to the trot, and 
the pace became accelerated. " Gallop ! " laughed 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 255 

the bugles, and the cavahy went down the valley 
in a thnnder of hoofs. The leader swung his sabre 
about his head, the bugle sent out a peal of meny 
notes, and the column shot by the right front into 
line at a mad run. The Indians heard them, saw 
them, saluted them with yells of rage, and turned 
to face this new foe. And then, with a swirl that 
meant destruction, the glad cavalry rushed upon 
them, revolvers popping and sabres swinging in 
mad delight to taste blood. 

That was too much, with the hot flanking fire 
that burst from the hill top. The Indians broke 
for shelter, their only thought to save themselves. 
The cavalry rushed after them, cutting them down 
relentlessly. And then the men who, for two 
days and two nights had sustained the attack, rose 
up in the face of victory and tried to cheer. They 
swelled their chests and opened their mouths — 
but oh, the pitiful sound they gave forth ! 
Parched and choked by heat and fever and sul- 
phur breath, they could only expel a sound as of 
a soft wind ; and as their comrades, rushing to 
them, clambered over the breastwork, they caught 
at the precious canteens of tepid water so eagerly 
held out to them, and dropped on the ground and 
drank. 

Later, Avhen the infantry had come up and the 
cavalry had ridded the line of march of its red- 
skinned pests, the Agency was reached. Bnt it 



256 OW TEH OFFENSIVE 

was too late, so far as the fate of the trader and his 
family was concerned. The men soon came upon 
the trader — what there was of him. It was not 
pleasant to look npon. The Indians had shown 
him no leniency because of his share in fitting them 
out for the war-path, but had seen in him only one 
of the hated race of their oppressors. As for his 
wife and daughters, there was no trace of them. 
They had not been killed ; but it had not been ex- 
pected that they would be. It was weeks before 
they were found to be yet alive, and months before 
they were given up by their captors. Their story 
was the same that has been told by frontier women 
ever since there was a frontier upon which women 
might venture. 

But the mangled trader lay in view of all. The 
sight of him might have roused pity in the breasts 
of unaccustomed men, or those unacquainted with 
events immediately preceding the outbreak. But 
these fighting men were not such. They looked 
upon his corpse and cursed its departed life with 
swelling indignation ; for their eyes were red, their 
bodies weary, and their sonls in a rage, all Avith the 
severe strain of the march and fight, and the loss of 
loved comrades. Infantry and cavalry fraternized 
over the remains while the officers turned their 
backs. It was as much as could be done to get the 
body of the offensive man decently underground. 

And then the men rioted through the stores and 
corrals of the trader. Break, burn, destroy! In 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 257 

tliat way they would leave the mark of their criti- 
cism on the place. In their hearts, the officers 
sympathized with the feeling ; and if any intima- 
tion of their non-inclination to enforce discipline 
ever reached the War Department, no suspicion of 
it has been gained from official action. 

The men raged into the dwelling, Killeen a 
leader. " Come on ! Here's carpets ! Here's 
china ! We paid for them ! Here's a piano — blood 
of our comrades on it ! Men we've lived with and 
fought with and seen die ! Come on ! " 

His axe fell, broad-side, on the key-board, and 
the piano sent out a discordant howl of misery. 
The men devastated the place. Everything that 
bore the stamp of the trader's belongings fell be- 
fore them. The fury expended itself only when 
no damage remained to be done. One would have 
said such havoc was the work of implacable foes ; 
a force whose coming the trader had longed for 
would never have been suspected of it. 

There followed months of difficult work in the 
field before the Indians were again brought under 
subjection and the border reassured of safety. 
Cavalry and infantry were sent into the territory in 
force ; the Government was put to great expense ; 
the settlement of lands was delayed by fear of other 
outbreaks. It was hard work for the army, but 
work it performed, bringing order once more, and 
peace, where war had been. Small thought was 
17 



258 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

given by those wlio at safe distances read accounts 
of fight and struggle, of assault and ambush, to the 
brave men who went down in redness to a sudden, 
violent death. They Avere soldiers, and death after 
such manner was their natural portion. If they 
loved life, they should not be soldiers. Theorists 
opposed the use of troops at all, and Avould have 
tried persuasive methods. The army was between 
two tires : it was condemned if it did its duty, and 
it was condemned if it did not. Indian warfare 
brought it no satisfaction but that of its own 
strength and rectitude. And at last the Indians 
were beaten back to their set limits by the skilful 
use of brute force — which is the only force the In- 
dian can appreciate and respect. And peace was 
restored, and corn was sown on land that had been 
fertilized with blood. 

A few— a very few — officers and enlisted men 
were complimented in orders, of which the world 
never heard, for their courage, skill, and endurance. 
The men who died in the campaign were buried 
where they fell with no more than a rock, with per- 
haps a rude cross scratched- on it, to mark the place 
— their very names unknown, save to a few un- 
heard-of enlisted men, their comrades. But the 
martyred trader was known and spoken of and la- 
mented at large. And then, oblivion strewed her 
poppy, and the whole fierce summer was forgot, 
save by the few who had participated in its ter- 
rors and hardships. 



XI 



Aftee the last band of liostiles liad surrendered 
and gone to the reservation in a semblance of sub- 
mission, the troops engaged were gi-adually relieved 
from field duty and remanded to their stations. 
The infantry was among the last to get the wel- 
come order, for it was of special use in guarding 
trails and in holding strategic points quietly in 
force ; and snow was flying before it went into bar- 
racks. There had been something exciting, some- 
thing exhilarating, about the whole wretched busi- 
ness, Spurbridge told himself as he sat in these 
little sentinel camps after active measures were 
over. He had rejoiced in the open air life and the 
bodily exertion, for he was young and muscular, 
and had a healthy physique that delighted in such 
endeavor. But when he was ordered back to the 
Fort and knew there was to be no more tapering, 
but that the campaign was squarely at an end, he 
was appalled to find how soon the old feeling of 
dissatisfaction took possession of him. He would 
have been glad to settle down to a philosophic ease 
as the other officers did ; they took what came as a 
matter of course, did their duty methodically, and 



260 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

killed off the rest of the time iu a few stereotyped 
ways, quite as they had before the campaign. Of 
course the campaign offered them no reason for a 
change ; but it had for the time lifted Spurbridge 
so far out of himself that he was shocked to find, 
the strain being over, that life went on as mono- 
tonously and with as much apparent aimlessness 
as before. He knew now that a soldier's life must 
consist of alternate periods of fierce endeavor and 
of listless poverty of occupation. Neither of these 
seemed to him worth while, as he thought it over 
in his lonely set of quarters. 

When he went of an evening to call on Colonel 
Gerrish, and especially to talk with Lydia, he 
fancied that the colonel regarded him with a 
glance in which suspicion and interest mingled. 
The gallant old veteran, whose record was one 
long list of battles and victories and honorable 
mentions and brevets for conspicuously able ser- 
vice, was so completely a soldier tliat he could 
not help entertaining doubts of the entire reliabil- 
ity of one to whom the military life should seem 
insufficient. He had no technical faiilt to find 
with Spurbridge ; he had him pigeon-holed as a 
faithful officer, though not especially enterpris- 
ing ; he lacked the vim and ardor that goes 
with a complete sympathy in one's work. To be 
sure, no one displayed much vim and ardor in the 
matter of recurring reveilles and company drihs, 
but even there Spurbridge fell below the rest, in 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 261 

the colonel's estimation ; his company did not set 
up so smooth a drill as the others, and his roll-calls 
lacked the presence of the indispensable second 
lieutenant oftener than the colonel liked. Still he 
hoped to see Spurbridge develop into as much of 
a man as any in the command. 

With Lydia, however, Spurbridge discovered a 
sympathy of interest that was neither entirely 
military nor entirely literary ; nor was it made 
of these two elements to the exclusion of others. 
There was a certain personal pleasure and gratifica- 
tion in the relationship, which he blunderingly at- 
tributed to every cause but the right one ; it never 
occurred to him that, had any other lady of the 
garrison displayed a similar interest in his work 
he would not have found the same delight in her 
society that he now found in Lydia's. It had 
nothing to do with her, but only with the chance 
that led her, rather than another, to speak to him 
of writing. And when he talked with her in un- 
restrained fashion of these hopes of his, it was still 
due to that chance and not to any personal quality 
of hers. So he thought ; and he was disabused of 
the idea only by slow degrees. 

It rather annoyed him to find that she was get- 
ting to care less for their confidential chats than 
he did ; but he was sure this was the case, for 
sometimes she betrayed a lamentable degree of in- 
attention when he was speaking of, to him, impor- 
tant things — things that he thought should have 



262 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

an interest for her. There was one particular oc- 
casion when he had discoursed at considerable 
length only to find, when he paused, that her gaze 
had been on his face, but that her thoughts had 
taken slight notice of his words. She seemed un- 
able to make any suitable reply, and he looked at 
her with a touch of indignation in his surprise, 

"I beg your pardon," he said, a trifle stiffly. 
" It is wrong of me to bore you with long-winded 
accounts of things that may never be." 

She strove to excuse herself. " I'm really sorry. 
What you said was very interesting — but I 
couldn't quite follow you. It was my fault, to be 
sure." 

" Day dreaming, were you? " he demanded, with 
an afl"ectation of light-hearted demeanor that was 
remarkably ill-placed. 

She gave him a glance of regret, imploring him 
to say no more. So he turned to another subject 
until he could suitably take his departure. 

She was guilty of this absence of attention more 
than once, and he could argue from it nothing but 
that she had lost heart in the things he spoke 
of, and cared nothing for meeting him. He was 
sorry and gave himself a week of bitter reflec- 
tion over it. Then, feeling an absolute need for 
her companionship in the quiet of the station, he 
called as before. She was gracious, and more 
attentive ; and he told himself that he must have 
been mistaken in his hasty judgment, and he con- 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 263 

gratnlated himself on having given her another 
trial. 

He had to confess to Lydia, when she asked 
him, that he -syas not doing any writing. She was 
grieved at this, and wonld learn why. Had he 
not done well enough at the start for encourage- 
ment ? 

" Yes," he said, " I did well enough at the start 
— and poorly enough afterAvard to counterbalance 
it. It's no use. Miss Gerrish. I can't do any- 
thing at it, much as I would like to. I'm not a 
strong enough man." 

She would not accept that light estimate for an 
instant. 

" Oh, it is just as I tell you. This is no sudden 
veering, I want to write ; I take more pride in 
the authors that have been in my family than in 
any other members of it, and I'd be glad to follow 
in their footsteps — even at a considerable dis- 
tance," he added, with a tincture of humility, in 
view of his failure to follow at all, " But in the 
army it isn't possible. There's no friendly atmos- 
phere. I found that out by experience, and it's 
also what Kalph tells me," 

" Do you talk with Mr. Ralph about these mat- 
ters?" she asked, as though jealous of another 
who should share their common interest, divide 
with her the knowledge of Spurbridge's aims. 

He heard her with ears that did not understand. 
" Oh, yes, a good deal. He has been very 



264 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

friendly to me and I'm indebted to liim for mncli 
good advice — or many good pointers." He made 
a wry face. " I don't like to think of advice being 
always what I'm in search of." 

She laughed j3leasantly. " I shouldn't expect 
Mr. Ralph to be a dealer in good advice, exactly," 
she said, half inquiringly. Then she gave her lips 
a sudden slap, as of punishment. " There ! I 
should never say anything of that kind ! It is 
the worst thing one can do. Please forget that I 
said it." 

" No, I can't do that," he said, amused at her 
petulance. " I'm glad you said it, if it will help 
me to set him right before you. He is as well 
fitted to advise a calloAv youngster — such as I was 
— as anyone I know of, because he has seen lots of 
life, and knows just what sort of people one meets 
out here. He is a fine man, Miss Gerrish, and 
you mustn't let his lapses count against him too 
much, you know." He gave a knowing laugh, as 
though to indicate the degree of indulgence of 
lapses she might safely entertain. 

"I know, I know," she reiterated. "Papa 
thinks he is one of the ablest officers in the regi- 
ment. I didn't mean anything that way." 

" Oh, of course not." He thought to himself 
things would be at a pretty pass when a woman 
should attempt to criticise an ofiicer in his military 
capacity. 

" Well, we won't say anything more about it," 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 265 

she concluded ; and Spurbridge, who had in mind 
Ralph's regard for her and was tempted to say a 
good word for him, was forced to let the matter 
drop. On second thought he was rather glad of 
this, for he did not wish to stand in the light of a 
John Alden to this army Priscilla. He did not 
think he rightly could, having no passion of his 
own to plead. 

Spurbridge lingered in this state of mental un- 
rest through the winter. His talks with Ralph 
had made him feel the impossibility of carrying 
out any plan to a certain point and then abandon- 
ing all that might result after. He saw that if he 
was to be a soldier he must content himself with 
that. Still, garrison idleness was distasteful to 
him, however glad he might have been to lounge 
in a city where something was always going on ; 
and the field, with its blood and butcher}', the 
frozen truth of its merciless aim, was not attractive 
enough to reconcile him to the years in garrison. 
He did not know what to do. He fancied time 
hung heavier than ever, since the severe strain of 
field duty, and that he dropjDed into fathoms of 
idleness before unsuspected. He was more genial 
with his brother officers than while he was making 
his literary attempt, and they fancied the campaign 
had knocked all that foolishness out of him. In- 
stead of that, he was bewilderingly asking himself 
what he should do next. 



266 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

His recourse in tliese seasons was Ralph. That 
officer was always ready to listen to his plaint, 
and to insert his caustic wedges in the conversa- 
tion at opportune places. He said many things 
that rasped Spurbridge's feelings, but he was a 
good friend ; perhaps part of his friendshi23 lay in 
that very feature. 

One evening, Spurbridge found Ralph at his 
book-case, arranging new books that had just 
come in. The wrappers and binding cord lay 
about the floor, but the books were piled Avitli 
proper care, pending their disposition on the 
shelves. He looked up as one does when inter- 
rupted at some labor that is dear, but seeing SjDur- 
bridge, greeted him as cordially as ever. 

" Halloo ! " he shouted. " Come right in, old 
man. Walk on the floor anywhere you want to — 
but keep off the books ! " He hung over them with 
an exaggerated air of protection that showed his 
pride and joy in their possession clearly enough. 

Spurbridge walked across the room and glow- 
ered down upon them. " AVell, you've been lay- 
ing in a stack of them," he volunteered. " It'll 
amount to something when you move — your excess 
baggage will." 

" It's worth all the excess the^^'U get out of me," 
said Ralph, undismayed, " and that will be mighty 
little. Don't you know that all professional books 
are transported free? And do you suppose an 
army officer's going to spend his rare shekels on 



OJi THE OFFENSIVE 267 

any other kind ? Stand out of the way o' me and 
my books ! " He picked them up and stood them 
in their selected spaces with a careful touch, and 
then regarded their backs with delight. 

" Books cost a lot," said Spurbridge, with an air 
of discouragement. 

" Naturally ; they're worth a lot," Ealph re- 
turned. " What have you got it in so for books 
to-night for, anyway ? " he demanded. 

" Oh, books are all right. They're pretty bulky 
things for an officer to be packing all over the 
country, though. If a fellow was settled a library 
should be the first consideration, of course." 

" I wouldn't make any distinction between being 
settled and not being settled, if I were you ; we 
never can fix up a permanent home, any\\'ay. And 
probably books are Avorth more out here than back 
east, where they are more easily got." 

" Well, you'll never buy any more, after this 
lot," said Spurbridge. 

Ralph looked at his shelves critically. " Y-e-e-s, 
I will," he said. " These will last a while, though. 
Having just come off one campaign, I think I am 
justified in looking forward to a long spell of lei- 
sure, and as I saved money in the field I j^iit the 
surplus into books. Never say now that the cam- 
paign did nobody any good," he concluded, with a 
jocose warning. 

Spurbridge flirted his arm impatiently. "I 
wish I could settle down to this thing the way you 



268 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

do, Ealj)li," he cried. " When you get sick of every- 
thing else, you can come in here and lose yourself 
between the covers of a book, and forget where 
you are. You can enjoy this. Why can't I ? " 
he demanded. 

" Give it up. I'm not your keeper," Balph re- 
joined, lightly. " Books are innocuous enough 
until you start in to make them for yourself; I 
never had any curiosity to investigate that phase 
of bookishness. AVhy don't you devote yourself 
to some such harmless occupation as reading? 
Why are you so set on originating for your- 
self ? " 

" Oh, I'm not laying claim to such an amount of 
originality," said Spurbridge, modestly, yet feeling 
discreetly flattered. "I wish I might. I know 
what I'd do then, sure enough." 

" Well, then ? " 

"Why, I'd resign, quicker ; and I'd do just those 
things that I want to do, first going where the ef- 
fort wouldn't be froAvned upon." He spoke with 
so much decision that Ral^jli perceived the idea 
had been long with him. "Why not?" he con- 
tinued. " That man you told me about — Wallace 
— he resigned, and I don't see but he got the best 
of the bargain. And all the others you have men- 
tioned. Why, if they had any aspirations, the first 
function of the army was to knock them in the 
head ! " 

" Well, I suppose to be a good officer a man 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 269 

should be fit for nothing else under the sun," 
Kalpli observed, sarcastically. 

" Pretty much so ! " said Spurbridge, to his 
surprise. "If he is fit for anything else, that 
has to be eliminated, and if his brother ofiicers 
don't do it, the War Department itself takes a 
hand." He spoke with intense bitterness, but 
Ralph permitted him to go on, and even encour- 
aged him. 

"You remember that young fellow in the 
Tenth ? " he added. " He made a record for brav- 
ery about as soon as he gi'aduated ; he went 
abroad and was attached to some German regi- 
ment to broaden his mihtary knowledge. He 
came back, and was so disgusted \x\i]i the way 
things were done in our service as compared with 
the German, that he wrote some articles about it, 
and they were published ; it was in criticism of 
his superior officers, to be sure, but I believe they 
deserved it. Well, do you know what was done ? 
The War Department turned in and reprimand- 
ed him, and forbade his writing further military 
articles for publication." 

" That w^as a brutal display of authority," said 
Balph, a cold light of displeasure in his eyes, as he 
turned toward Spurbridge. 

" That's what it was, though you don't mean it," 
Spurbridge retorted. Then he stopped suddenly. 
'■ Oh, I didn't come in here to pick a fuss ! I'm 
making an ass of myself, as usual. Does it strike 



270 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

you I have a peculiar talent that way ? " he asked, 
contritely. 

" Well, you may not be pre-eminent, but you 
are above the average," Ralph returned, with ju- 
dicial calm. 

" That's all right," Spurbridge accepted the re- 
proof. He sat silent for a little time, while Ealph 
again contemplated his new books. Then he 
burst forth again, " Lord ! I don't know what to 
do with myself ! " 

" You seem a little irritable," Ralph observed, 
swinging around toward him. 

" I believe you." 

" You have a bad case of displeasure with fate," 
Ralph pursued. 

"Well?" Spurbridge snapped. 

" If you'll come off, and talk like a reasonable 
being, I'll suggest something. If you don't, I 
won't. It's a bad case and requires a powerful 
remedy." 

"Oh, go on. Don't mind me," Spurbridge 
begged. 

Ralph looked at him as critically as a physician, 
and gave a diagnosis. " Here you are, impatient 
of your daily task, kicking because there's nothing 
in the life, trying to prejudice yourself against it, 
getting feverish, all for nothing. And still you 
have the remedy in your own hands ; you can do 
as other officers do — as I know you would love to 
— introduce a new element into your life, new as- 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 271 

sociations, new cares, and still be as good an offi- 
cer as ever — perhaps better." 

" Just tell me how to do that," said Spurbridge, 
eagerly. 

" I'm coming to that — I guess I've got there," 
Ralph replied. " Why don't you just settle down 
and marry — or marry and settle down?" He 
stopped and watched Spurbridge through half- 
closed eyes, amusement and concern mingled on 
his face. 

Spurbridge looked at him a moment in indigna- 
tion. " Nonsense ! " he exclaimed. 

" Nothing of the kind," Ralph insisted, calmly. 
" Why not, now ? It makes a big difference, they 
tell me. I never tried it myself." 

" Nonsense ! " Spurbridge repeated with more 
moderate emphasis. 

" Do you speak from experience ? " Ralph 
asked. 

" Nonsense ! " he growled in his throat. " That 
would never do for me. I can't be reconciled to 
the service along that line. I've thought about it, 
Ralph, of course ; every young fellow does. You 
do." 

"Oh, I did," Ralph cautiously admitted, 'Svlien 
I was young." 

Spurbridge smiled at the idea of his being any- 
thing but young. "I have thought about it," he 
reiterated, " and I have come to the conclusion — 
never to marry." He made the statement with 



272 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

such an air of finality that Ralph took his pipe 
from his mouth, and looked at him in mute agony 
of farewell. 

"Then you're a gone case," he said, "and I shall 
expect cards very soon." 

" Oh, no joking, Ralph. I'm in earnest, and I've 
thought it all out. Of course I could never marry 
a girl unless I was abundantly satisfied that she 
was, in family and social position and all that, just 
everything she should be, you know. I would 
never allow myself to love a girl unless she was all 
that. But if I loved a girl, I should have such a 
respect for her that I could never go about in- 
quiring into her birth and circumstances, as any 
serious intentions would require. So, don't you 
see, I shall never permit myself to love anyone? 
And so, of course, shall never marry ? " 

Ralph preserved a straight face. His experience 
at Indian councils stood him in good stead. Fi- 
nally he replied : 

" But of course you would marry an army girl ; 
and in the army there would be little need of mak- 
ing inquiry of any sort. That is one advantage of 
our knowing one another so intimately all through 
the service." 

" I have seen some army girls I shouldn't want 
to marry," said Spurbridge, adding, "but I'm not 
saying I could, if I wanted to ever so much. I've 
had no curiosity to find out." 

After a little time in silence, during which 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 273 

Ealpli's gaze wandered again to the book-case, 
Spiirbridge langlied and said : 

" But that's a fine cnre for some cases — or it 
might even be taken where no cure is sought ! 
Say, old man, why don't you try it for yourself? " 
He spoke in a tone intentionally jovial, for he 
knew Ealph's mind, and he would not pain him by 
needlessly pressing the case. 

But Kalph threw his hands behind his head, and 
yawned to show his lack of interest. 

"I marry? Oh, that isn't for me; that's for you 
young chaps that are just coming along. Leave 
me alone with my whiskey and cards. They'll 
carry me through after a fashion." 

" Now, there's just the point," said Spurbridge, 
leaning forward impressively. "No, I'm not 
preaching any sermon at you," he added, seeing 
Ealph's frosty glance. "You'd be happier that 
way. Look at the way you fix up your quarters 
here — see your books ! This is the sort of thing 
you really care for — not that other." 

"My dear fellow," Ealph began, and stopped, 
choking slightly. Spurbridge did not notice that, 
for he was pleased to have Ealph address him so 
familiarly. "My dear fellow," he resumed, "if 
there had been a girl I wanted to marry, a girl I 
could have married, when I was at your age and 
had no more service than you, I'd have thanked 
the man who would have turned my feet in that 
direction. For I was going through just about the 
18 



274 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

same degree of dissatisfaction that you are. If I 
had married then, it would have beeu the — the — 
salvation of me. Yes, the salvation ; that very 
word ! But there wasn't any such luck on the 
boards," he continued, relapsing into his touch of 
gambler's idiom, " and after I got tired of being 
dissatisfied, I went where I saw most oi the older 
officers. And now I can hold as much whiskey as 
the best of them ! And I can play a poker hand to 
beat anybody in the garrison ! But you needn't 
think for a little minute that there's any great sat- 
isfaction in it. It isn't worth what it's cost me to 
learn." 

" I reckon not," said Spurbridge, with a thought 
of liquor bills and poker debts. 

" And I don't mean * worth ' in any financial 
sense," Ralph went on. Spurbridge cocked his 
head inquiringly. " I mean in a mental, and a 
moral, and a physical sense. I mean in all that 
goes to make a man what he should be. You 
thought I didn't mean it a while ago, when I said 
that an officer should be fit for soldiering, and 
nothing else ; Avell, I didn't mean it then, but I'll 
own up to a grain of truth in it now ! I'm a good 
officer ! I'm not boasting when I say it. I know 
it because I am given important details, and be- 
cause other officers like my opinions, and because 
the colonel relies on me. I am a good officer — 
but as true as death I'm not fit for anything else ! 
I show up all right on parade and in the field ; I'm 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 275 

a soldier and a success, so far as a soldier can be a 
success in these times. Yet if I tried to do any- 
thing but soldier, you'd see the most melancholy 
failure of the centur}" ! " 

" I'm mighty sorry " Spurbridge began, but 

Ralph checked him with a wave of the hand. 

"When you showed an inclination to take up 
some employment instead of accepting existing 
conditions out of hand, I was glad. I hoped you 
would do it, would succeed. I knew of no one 
that had ever made a success of that sort of thing, 
but I wanted you to try it. I thought you had 
common sense, and more than common pluck to 
undertake it. Well, you tried it, and you couldn't 
make a go of it." 

" That's so, and I'm mighty sorry you were dis- 
appointed in me." 

" I wasn't disappointed in you," Ealph returned. 
" I have just as much faith in you now as before. 
What you tried was an impossibility ; I thought so 
then, but I didn't know; I'm satisfied of it now. 
Not because you fail in application, but because 
the army is irrevocably opposed to that sort of 
thing. Well, you are none the worse off for hav- 
ing tried. In short, you should find a certain sat- 
isfaction in the experiment." 

" Well, I do," Spurbridge declared. 

" That's all right, then. But you see salvation 
doesn't lie that way, don't you ? I'm telling you 
all this because I've been there, and knov.' ! But 



27G ON THE OFFENSIVE 

the rest of the way is worse, for you. That's -why 
I ventured to speak about that — that other methoil, 
you know. Of course, you are not going in for 
marriage with the idea of saving yourself from a 
life of tempestuous idleness — though that is what 
you would accomplish. No fellow has a right to 
speak to another on that subject unbidden. I ho^De 
you'll overlook my ardor in the case ? '' he asked, 
half quizzically. 

Spui-bridge simply reached out and grasped his 
hand, as it hung over the arm of the chair. And 
he looked at him in a way that brought a deepen- 
ing color under the tanned surface of Halph's face. 

" No," said Ealph, " never. AVlien I was Avhere 
you are, I might have, if I had known enough and 
had the chance. But I'm too far along now ; ' the 
world is in a manner over, and the earth is ashes.' 
And I have lots of company on my own j^ath up 
to an ultimate colonelcy. We'll let it go at that." 
The thin ghost of a smile fluttered about his lips 
in recognition of the ghost of a life to which he 
was looking forward. " It's not so bad but what 
it might be worse. The only thing is, I hope you 
see the difference." He came to a full stop, re- 
turned the pressure of Spurbridge's grasp, and 
threw off his hand as though the mere weight of 
it was too much to be borne. 

" I see," Spurbridge said, softly. " She doesn't 
know ? " 

" I hope not," Ealph replied, fervently. " I 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 277 

liave never said a word of it to her — have tried to 
keep it from her. She's too far above me to have 
any other emotion than pity, so far as I'm concerned 
— and, good God ! I don't want her to pity me ! " 

Spurbridge could make no answer to this, for 
Ealph's Avords served but to bring him to a sense 
of what Lydia might be to himself. He was not 
intending to think of her in that way ; he had 
been sincere in his statement to Ralph ; his scheme 
of life had been packed too full to admit of mar- 
riage, except as a consideration when worthier am- 
bitions should be consummated. He put her away 
resolutely from his thoughts. It was almost a 
dishonor to entertain such thoughts of her while 
Ralph sat there, worn and moody, in his renun- 
ciation of all effort to win her to himself. 

"Well!" Spurbridge ejaculated, presently, "I 
suppose you know yourself pretty well, or you 
wouldn't voice those sentiments ? " Ralph nodded. 
" I can't see, though, that I should follow your ad- 
vice,' even for the best girl who ever lived — and 
who is doubtless in this regiment " 

" She is ! " 

" There's another way out of it for me — a good 
way, and it's been on my mind for some time. I 
believe I shall put it in practice." He hesitated a 
moment. " I can resign." 

Ralph swimg around wearily in his chair. The 
silence was oppressive as he waited, for the meas- 
ure was not one to be considered lightly. 



278 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

" I wouldn't do it," he said, after a long pause. 
" It doesn't look well, someliow, for officers to 
be resigning. It's a kind of reflection on the ser- 
vice. And you can understand it's the service be- 
fore anything else with me, now." 

"Yes, I know that," Spin-bridge replied, "but it 
might be worse, not only for me but for the ser- 
vice, if I remained. If you're going to look at it 
from that side, that's the phase to consider." 

" Ah, I was too egotistical when I spoke," said 
Ralpli, quickly, " I forgot that the eyes of the 
world are not upon each one of us continually. 
One sometimes gets the idea that they are. The 
pursuit of military glory is not often conducted in 
solitude," he added, reflectively. " If you are so 
at outs with the service, then the course you men- 
tion is the only one open to you. No man of 
honor could do anything else. When I said 
' don't do it,' my objection was purely personal. 
I hate to lose you for my own sake." 

" I could go out with a cleaner conscience if I 
knew the officers felt that way about it," said 
Spurbridge, earnestly, " I don't believe I shall 
ever be satisfied with the service. It isn't suffi- 
cient ; it doesn't touch the core of my desire. 
And I believe I shall be a better citizen of the re- 
public if I get right out and earn my living as a 
civilian, than if I drag along in the army simply 
for the sake of the pay." 

Ealpli raised his hand deprecatingly. " Don't 



ON TUE OFFENSIVE 279 

do that ! " he exclaimed, " Yon couldn't have a 
worse reason for staying in the army than the mis- 
erable stipend that attaches. And if it's a career 
you're after, you can take my word in addition to 
your own experience, that the army offers little 
but a chance for conspicuous failure." 

" We don't need to talk of that, we know it so 
well," said Spurbridge. He was standing up, em- 
phasizing his firmness of purpose by his erect at- 
titude. " I came in here to-night to tell you I 
had made up my mind on the matter of resigning 
— that is, I guess I did," he added, Avith an em- 
barrassed laugh. " I didu't have it formulated — 
but I see it now. I wanted to tell you that I am 
going to resign." 

" What shall you do ? " Kalph asked. " ^Tiere 
shall you go ? There is no profession for which 
you are fitted. You have been trained for a sol- 
dier, and not a civilian." 

" I know, but I can make some kind of an ap- 
plication of the principles I have learned. Oh, I 
have a shot or two in my locker," he added, know- 
ingly. " Yes, it will be all right. I have written 
some letters about it. Mother is glad to have me 
resign. She is alone now, back there in New York, 
It's worth all the risk to get back to civilization, 
and be with her. Don't you worry. I ought to 
do something, I believe, when I get iuto that good 
eastern environment." 

" Well, there's only this about it," said Ealph. 



280 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

" I don't want to see you ever come knockiDg at 
the door of the army for readmission. Some do 
that, you know — make the attempt in civil life, 
find it isn't all their fancy painted, give up, and 
come back — that is, if they can." 

" That's hardly my style, Ralph," Spurbridge 
replied, with some acerbity. "I shall not come 
back to take a reduced rank as a mark of favor." 
He was still strong in the belief that the world was 
his and waiting to be claimed. " I shall succeed, 
Kalph ; that's what I'm going out for ! " 

" It will be pleasanter than staying in these 
wild places. Heigho ! Well, I have m}^ books to 
supplement the usual resources, and shall get 
along somehow. Going ? " he added a moment 
later, as Spurbridge rose and made a movement to- 
ward the door. 

" Yes, I must. You will have a chance before 
you sleep to get acquainted with the covers of 
your new books." 

" Oh, there's time enough for that ! " Kalph 
shouted after him. And Spurbridge went to his 
quarters and penned his renunciation of the fleet- 
ing glories of the soldier's life. 



XII 

He felt no misgivings as he Avrote it out, nor 
even the next morning when he took it to his cap- 
tain for transmittal through the usual military 
channels. He was a little surprised at this, for he 
had anticipated a certain regret ; instead, he was 
elated. For one thing, he had no ties to sever 
but those of personal friendships ; and, realizing 
that separation is the order of nature as we shut- 
tle back and forth upon this bullet's surface, he 
could steel his heart against undue emotion on 
that score. He was glad to have taken this deci- 
sive step ; he had been impelled to it from A^ithin, 
and had been congratulated on his determination 
by his mother and the few others whose opinion 
he held in esteem. And so he watched the paper 
he had written slip along the official groove Avith a 
little smile, and turned his face expectantly toward 
the pleasant possibilities of the change. 

His resignation created a stir in the regiment. 
Resignations without cause — simply through pref- 
erence — were so uncommon that each was in- 
vested with the interest of a fateful move in which 



282 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

all shared. At first, some jeered at the tliouglit of 
quitting the army for anything under the sun, and 
quoted the cases of luckless ones who had tried it 
and come to grief. They took an actual pride in 
asserting that the army unfitted one for civil em- 
ployments, and forecast disaster for Spurbiidge, as 
though they thought it merited by the audacity of 
his step. 

" Mr. Spurbridge has resigned — submitted the 
papers this morning," said Lawrence, Avhen he 
went to his cjuarters after guard-mount. It was 
news of importance. 

" Why ? " Mrs. Lawrence asked, running over 
in her mind a list of offences that an officer might 
commit, and that would be likely to resvilt in this 
way. 

" Because he don't like the army. Thinks he's 
going to carve a name for himself in the East." 

"Well, I hope he will succeed," she said, chari- 
tably. She thought for a moment of the possibili- 
ties, thought of the advantages of the Eastern life 
to which she had been accustomed until she met 
Lawrence. " I'm sure he deserves to," she added, 
with a little sigh. 

" AVhy ? For resigning ? " 

" Oh, Fred, you know if a man has any go to 
him life is worth more there than here. You 
know the army makes one vegetate — unless one is 
an excei)tional man," she added, fondly, 

" You're not going back on the army, are you, 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 2S3 

little woman ? " lie asked, coming very close to 
lier, and with a touch of concern in his voice. 

She looked up at him bravely. " No, Fred. I 
like it — and I have you " — she got hold of his 
hand and wouldn't let go — " and there is your 
splendid record. The army is good to us. But 
there are the boys, Fred. Wliatever shall we do 
with them ? They can have no advantages of 
school and of companionship as they grow up." 

" We shall have to send them away to school as 
soon as ever they are old enough, I suppose," he 
said. She shrank from the suggestion of losing 
sight of them, and shook her head decidedly. 
" Well, we'll get along somehow," he reassured 
her. " We'll do the best we can." 

" Yes, that is always the army way," she mur- 
mured, pleased. Yet she could not easily cast off 
doubt for their future. " But growing up among 
soldiers and seeing no other people at all will give 
them a very narrow view. I want them to-be 
broad and unprejudiced. If they know nothing 
but the army, that is all they will be fit for." 

" Well, if they are fit for that, why not let them 
be soldiers ? " he asked, lightly. " I dare say they 
could hustle around and get a commission apiece." 

" Would you like them to, Fred ? " 

Then he consented to look at the matter seri- 
ously. He knew the binding, constrictive element 
of the army, and the narrowness of life it offered ; 
and he thought of the broader field for usefulness 



284 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

and honor that might be found elsewhere. He 
was loyal to the army, but he recognized the 
wealth of opportunities outside it. " The army is 
all right," he said, stoutly. " It's good enough for 
me. But — I slioidd rather see the boys take hold 
of something else. There's too much personal risk 
and too little personal gain in this." 

Spurbridge was surprised by the calls he re- 
ceived from the sedate old officers of the regiment 
in the days that followed the submitting of his 
resignation. 

The major of the regiment, red-faced and pon- 
derous, laboriously swung himself into his quar- 
ters, and sat down to look upon him. 

" So you're going to leave us, are you ? " he de- 
manded, after a searching gaze. 

" Yes, sir, I believe so." 

The major breathed heavily. " Well, it's a good 
thing — for you." Then he became retrospective, 
and spoke of his past as an officer will seldom do. 

" I've often thought my life was wasted in the 
army," he said. " I haven't amounted to any- 
thing. There was a time, right after the war, 
when I went home and the citizens gave me a re- 
ception on account of my services. I was offered 
the presidency of a bank in that little city — it's a 
big city now ; but while I hesitated over it, a lieu- 
tenant's commission in the regular establishment 
was held out, and being young and full of oats, I 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 2S5 

took it. Heiglio ! Why, I might be the presi- 
dent of that bank to-day, if I had stayed there, 
and brought up my family in pleasant surround- 
ings, and enjoyed life. Instead of that, I've been 
knocking around the frontier in the worst holes 
I could find all my days, until now I don't feel 
like knocking round ; but I have to do it, and I 
■haven't got anything to show for it." 

" You have a fine record. Major." 

" Oh, bosh, yes ; but that's all. I'm as poor as a 
rat, and when my wife wants to see her people 
back East we have to start in and save money for 
the trip months beforehand. And my children 
haven't had any advantages, and that's my fault, 
too. No ; it is good, the army, but it doesn't atone 
for what might have been." 

Another officer, a rheumatic captain, came and 
smoked with him an hour before he said a word. 
Then he burst forth : 

" I like your pluck, Spurbridge ; I swear I do. 
It takes sand for a man to fling away a certainty 
like you are doing, for the chances of civil life. 
You are doing it at the right time, though; if a 
fellow is going to resign he ought to do it before 
he gets into the rut. Then he simply can't get 
away from it. Yes, you're doing the right thing, 
and blame me if I don't envy you ! If I were in 
your place I'd do so too ! 

" If I hadn't gone into the army from the volun- 
teers," he continued, " I might have had my farm, 



2SG ON THE OFFENSIVE 

back in Illinois, all clear of debt ; I could have had 
my father and mother Avith me in their last years ; 
my children could have had a chance in the public 
schools — and that would have been a life worth 
living ! But I took the army, and then I got mar- 
ried, and the children began coming. I couldn't 
resign then, because they were dependent on me ; 
but it was right then that I began to wish I w^as 
out of it, and back there on the farm ! And I 
haven't quit wishing so yet. But here I am, mak- 
ing my wife live in desolate places, turning myself 
into a beer-tank, and every month's pay is used 
for living expenses before I can get round to draw 
it ! I'm glad to see your grit, Spurbridge, and I 
shall keep watch of you to see you succeed. I'm 
sure you will ! " 

Such confidences as these gave Spurbridge food 
for much thought. He had expected to have his 
act censured ; but these admissions made him 
wonder how large a percentage of officers there 
might be staying in the army simply because they 
did not dare get out of it, trembling at the thought 
of being dependent on their own exertions for a 
livelihood. He did not think any worse of them 
for it ; he only pitied them. They were bound 
hand and foot by long usage to army customs, 
and could not free themselves ; and they were re- 
strained from a free exercise of such powers as 
they might have possessed by a sense of duty to 
their families. He wondered if he was going to 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 287 

find much of that in civil Hfe — of men following 
trades and professions of which they were sick, 
merely because they dared not break free, because 
there were children dependent on them for food. 
He did not know ; and yet, with the experience of 
added years, he was very sure to declare this a 
general law — that discontent is almost sure to fol- 
low the wearing off of novelty— that it is the con- 
stant companion of monotony — and that the sole 
advantage in this regard, of civil life over the mili- 
tary, lies in the Avider opportunity for recreation, 
for moments when one can forget one's self and 
cares amid ncAv conditions and surroundings. He 
did not know this. He remained restlessly at the 
Fort, counting the days that must elapse before he 
could be free. He was a prisoner looking forward 
to the expiration of his term. Spring was coming 
to the earth, and it should mean to him the begin- 
ning of a new life. 

When he met Lydia during those days it was 
with a feeling that an intangible barrier had been 
erected between them by his resignation. He 
thought he detected in her eyes a look of re- 
proach ; and it was difficult to attain the same de- 
gree of confidence and familiarity in their conver- 
sations as formerly. He felt a little guilty, as if 
it were a crime to resign, and she could not con- 
done it. 

" You will be going away soon, now? " she said. 



288 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

one clay. Talking had become difficult, yet it was 
necessary to say something. 

" Yery soon, now," he repeated, apologetically. 

" How long a leave do you expect ? " she then 
asked him. 

" Oh, not a long one at all. I haven't beeii in 
long enough to entitle me to any. Besides, it 
isn't absence on x^ay that I am seeking, you know," 
he explamed, interrogatively. 

" No," she acquiesced. 

An awkward little silence ensued, which she 
broke. 

" You'll really be where peoj)le do things, won't 
you ? " 

"Yes," he answered, slowly. "I shall be in the 
very midst of life." 

" And people striving to make names for them- 
selves, and all brisk with competition in eveiy 
art. Oh, how stirring that will be ! " 

" It will keep one awake daytimes, I fancy," 
he observed. " I shan't feel like sleeping while 
the world is moving on there, I believe." 

"No, indeed, and it will be better so. Of 
course we are all sorry to have you leave the regi- 



"Please except those who gain a file on me," 
he said. 

" Oh, you can afford that. It will be life itself 
with you. You will act, not look on." 

"That Avill be an improvement," he murmured. 



ON THE OFFENSIVE 289 

" Perhaps some time jou will meet some of tlio 
girls I used to be with in school," she reflected. 
" Many of them are there, and they are trying 
to accomplish something for themselves. Oh, I 
think that is much better than to sit down and 
have everything brought to you ! " 

" That is what you would have done had you 
been placed outside the army ? " he asked. 

" Yes, indeed ! " she replied, with strong em- 
phasis, " But, you see, I happen to be in the 
army — and I don't have your privilege of resign- 
ing." She laughed a little to carry off whatever 
savor of dissatisfaction there might have been in 
her words. 

" N-o-o," he drawled. He somehow thought of 
Ralph, who was also irrevocably welded to the 
army. From Ealpli his thoughts flew to her, and 
then back to the last confidential talk with Ralph. 

"Miss Gerrish," he spoke suddenly, and she 
looked up, a little startled ; " this is something 
of an experiment, though not as much so as the 
work I tried to do here in the army, and which 
you helped me with so much. That has, in a way, 
led up to this. Perhaps I ought to thank you for 
making me resign." He spoke lightly, but his 
eyes were serious, and real emotion trembled at 
his heart. 

" Oh, don't blame vie ! " she cried. " I have told 
you how sorry we all are to have you go." 

" Thank, not blame," he insisted. " I may not 
19 



290 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

sncceecl in tliis, although I expect and intend to. 
But, anyway — Miss Lydia — I wish you'd let me 
keep you informed. Not that it will interest you — 
perhaps — but that it will help me. Let me Avrite 
you how I get on — and if you will answer my let- 
ters " He paused eloquently, and looked at 

her. She did not seem to regard liis supplication 
favorably. 

" You know you wrote to mother for me when I 
didn't have time," he added, persuasively. " She 
thought that was very kind of you. She oftcn^ 
mentions you in her letters to me now." 

" She wrote to me, too," Lydia reflected, visibly 
touched by the memory. 

" Yes, I know. Well, now, aren't 3'ou willing 
to continue your kindness a little ? I shan't 
bother you much if I fail — I promise you that. 
But if I succeed — as I will ! I shall write you 

often Lydia," he lowered his voice, " you 

will do this for me now ? It doesn't mean much 

unless I succeed — but if I do Tell me you 

will ? " he implored. 

She looked up at him and smiled reassuringly, 
though her eyes were moist. " Yes," she said 
gently. And then he felt a sudden exaltation of 
purpose, as though an angel had looked upon him, 
and had sanctioned his undertaking with that one 
word. 



XIII 

The company that maintained the stage line be- 
tween the little town under the lee of the Fort 
and the outside world was accustomed, in its 
pomp of power, to start the stage on the tri-week- 
ly outward trip at two o'clock of the morning ; 
then they made desirable connection with railway 
trains, provided no interference from highwaymen 
was experienced on the road. In view of this un- 
alterable practice of the stage company, a custom 
had taken root among the officers, whenever any 
of their number were going away, of sitting up 
with them until the stage started, giving them one 
grand, exuberant owling, to remain in the memory 
as a reckoning point of time. 

When the date of Spurbridge's departure had 
been finally determined, the officers made an ex- 
traordinary effort to render the occasion nota- 
ble — as if he would ever need any assistance in 
remembering the day ! Ealph's quarters were 
fixed upon as the most suitable for the purpose, 
inasmuch as Ralpli had a larger assortment of 
drinking glasses in suitable shapes and sizes than 
any other bachelor officer, and less borrowing 



292 ON THE OFFENSIVE 

from the First and Last Chance was thus necessi- 
tated. And as night fell, enwrapping all their 
little world in clouds, they began to gather at 
Ealph's, where the light streamed from the win- 
dows and the constantly opening door in a wel- 
coming Avay. 

Everybody was there, of the officers. Colonel 
Gerrish departed from liis usual custom of refus- 
ing to notice these events, and came in early for 
a single glass to the success of the young adven- 
turer, as he facetiously styled Spurbridge. After 
that he went away, and the rooms fast became 
cloudy with tobacco-smoke, and lively with the 
popping of corks and the quick laughter of jolly 
comrades. The gray old surgeon was there, re- 
newing his youth in a way that it did them all 
good to see ; the major and all the captains lined 
up against the wi^ll according to rank, and sang 
the regimental songs vociferously ; and even the 
contract surgeon, a young civilian doctor who 
felt that the word " contract," as applied to him, 
was a reproach and a sneer, became vinously cour- 
ageous and assured Spurbridge, with a thump be- 
tween the shoulders, that he was a devilish fine 
chap to resign ; that civil life was the thing, after 

all ; and that for himself he should be d 

D D glad when his contract with the Gov- 
ernment should expire and he could get back to a 
decent practice in the glorious East. He had 
taken the contract for the sake of the practical 



OJy THE OFFENSIVE 293 

work in surgery, and was enraged to state that in 
six months he had done no more than amputate a 
crushed finger. 

While all were cheerfully under the influence of 
liquor, no one sought to test the charity of the 
gathering by becoming unnecessarily drunk. Some 
kept their heads better than usual ; and Ralph and 
Spurbridge were noticeable as taking almost noth- 
ing at all. Ralph was too much occupied over 
the change that was coming for the young fellow 
in whom he had such an interest to care for any- 
thing else, and Spurbridge had not been long 
enough with them to learn to hold up his end 
properly. One ruddy captain nearly fell upon his 
neck in tears to reflect that, now he was going into 
civil life, he never would have a chance to properly 
cultivate the drinking habit. 

So the night passed away with the tinkle of 
glasses and the repeated grind of hoarse joke and 
laughter. And then the sound of wheels was heard 
without on the gravel, and Ralph, looking out, 
said the stage was at the door. What, already ! 
It surely wasn't two yet ! When convinced that 
it was, they Avere sm-prised to find how much 
they had enjoyed the evening. And they shook 
hands with Spurbridge and wished him the things 
that are wished on the eve of memorable events ; 
and they scattered, each to his own quarters. 

Ralph went to the door of the coach with Spur- 
bridge, a little away from the crowd that content- 



294 ON TUB OFFENSIVE 

ed itself with the porch. In the darkness they 
grasped each other's hands. 

" Good-by ; good kick," said Ealph, huskily. 

" I won't say that to you, Ealph," said Spur- 
bridge. " I'll say more — God bless you." 

" Oh, yes." 

Then the coach rolled away. 

Through all the evening Spurbridge's thoughts 
had been more with Lydia than with the forced 
jollity that surrounded him ; and now, as the stage 
rolled down the line and the colonel's set of 
quarters loomed up darkly, he was struck with dis- 
may by the sudden thought that he had, perhaiis, 
seen her for the last time— and then he resolutely 
threw off the idea. 

" It is for you I am doing this, Lydia ! " he 
cried, softly, lest the driver should hear. " I will 
succeed — and then come back ! Lydia ! " 

He threw kisses toward the house ; for it was 
dark, and he was in the coach, and no one could 
know what he did. 

And Lydia had not slept. At intervals she had 
heard a noisy burst of laughter from Ralph's quar- 
ters, and kncAV that Spurbridgo was being owled. 
She had gone to bed, but not to sleep. When the 
stage lumbered past she heard it, and knew that 
Spurbridge was going — going. She had seen him 
for the last time. 

She was on her feet and at the window ; the 
room was dark ; no one could know what she did. 



OJV THE OFFENSIVE 295 

She threw kisses after the fast dimming form of 
the coach, and breathed after it : 
" That is for success ! " 

The stage grumbled on its leathern springs 
down the hill to the creek, and wallowed through 
the pebbles with a luscious, wet sound of enjoy- 
ment. Then up the other side the stout horses 
pulled their load, up the sand}' middle of the ave- 
nue, down the slough of the intersecting street. 
By and by, after Spurbridge had lost all sense of 
locality, the stage stopped, and the driver, dis- 
mounting, opened the door and looked in. 

" Guess you'll have company now," he said, 
genially. Some one came down from a house, and 
climbed in. Spurbridge leaned forward to see 
who it was, and received the faint light of the 
moon on his face. The man getting in spoke with 
surprise : 

"Mr. Spurbridge!" 

"Father Brugan!" 

The door slammed shut, and the driver lashed 
on his team. 

" I am very glad," said Spurbridge, at length. 
" I anticipated nothing like this." 

" Nor I ; it is a pleasant surprise," said the priest. 
" It is a long ride to the railway, and one would be 
lonely." 

"Easily so," replied Spurbridge. 

A little later he said : " We have not seen you 



2J»G ON THE OFFENSIVE 

often at the post of late." He told himself he 
had not seen the priest there in months. 

" Not as often as formerly. I have been so 
busy in town it has been impossible for me to 
come." 

The stage jolted out of town and struck the 
smoother turf of the prairie. It rolled on with a 
delightfully soothing motion. 

" You will be going on leave ? " the priest asked, 
suddenly. 

"Yes, I am on leave," said Spurbridge, " but it 
is more than that. I have resigned from the ser- 
vice — have left it forever." 

"Ah ! I did not know that ! " the priest ejacu- 
lated in surprise. 

"Yes. I am done with it." He was silent a 
little time. " Are you taking a vacation yourself? " 
he ventured, then. 

The priest started. " My vacation is, in a way, 
also permanent. I have been transferred. I am 
leaving this field of labor forever." 

" You surprise me," said Spurbridge, " Tlie 
town will be at a loss without you." 

They rolled forward through the night, these 
two men, sitting side by side, isolated from their 
fellows by distance and by darkness. Spurbridge 
soon ceased wondering at the priest's transfer ; he 
had something pleasanter to do. He thought of 
himself, of his work, of the object of all his endeav- 
or now, of Lydia. He smiled to himself, and he 



ON THE OFFEJYSIVB 2 1)7 

whispered her name softly — and then started guilt- 
ily in fear that the priest might have heard him. 
But he soon reproached himself for that. It was 
nothing to the priest ; he could understand the 
word no more than the sentiment that prompt- 
ed its utterance. He let the name dwell on 
his lips, a liquid shibboleth to j)eace and hap- 
piness for all his life ; and he allowed his delight 
of forecast to so enwrap him that he was scarce 
conscious of the other's presence. And side by 
side, on through the night, to a new field of labor, 
to a new ambition, the stage bore them. 



IN BLUE UNIFORM. 

An Army Novel. 

By GEORGE I. PUTNAM. 



mmo, $i.oo. 



PRESS NOTICES. 



THE NATION. 



" It is refreshing to read the first novel of a man who is not entirely 
devoid of the Uterary sense, and who approaches his task with the vigor 
and energs' of one who is bent more on telling his story than on filling so 
many pages. . . . The larger portion of the book, which seems to have 
almost written itself, is excellent." 

THE BOSTON BEACON. 

" An army novel of quite unusual merit, and its thoroughly realistic yet 
well-mannered revelations of life at a frontier military post are as piquant 
as they are original and suggestive." 

THE CLEVELAND LEADER. 

"The author tells his story with the graphic certainty of a man who 
passed through it all, but keeps himself ^o completely in the background 
that the reader cannot tell what part he took in it. . . . His object 
seems to have been the relation of the social or humorous aspects of the 
soldier's life. The book is delightful reading." 

PUBLIC OPINION. 

" This is a very well-written story of army life out on the frontier de- 
scribing the daily routine of regimental experiences at a post on a West 
Texas prairie. The descriptions of headquarters and of accommodations 
and lack of accommodations, are graphic, life-like, and often amusing." 

PHILADELPHIA PUBLIC LEDGER. 

" This is a strong novel, and the perspective is very good. The plot is 
unusual, the construction careful and consistent." 



THE CRITIC. 
" An exceptionally well-written story of army life. Its author, Mr. 
George I. Putnam, was at one time an officer of the i6th Infantry and, 
having the requisite literary ability, he has utilized his knowledge of life at 
a frontier military post as material for a very pretty romance. His char- 
acters are well drawn and are very life-like and natural." 

BOSTON COMMONWEALTH. 

"This story has the conspicuous merit of creating and preserving 
throughout the breezy atmosphere of frontier army life. Its author knows 
the little world whereof he writes ; his touch is assured, his style pictur- 
esque and sympathetic, and the story he has to tell is probable and inter- 
esting." 

THE OUTLOOK. 

" In character it somewhat resembles the well-known stories by Captain 
King, but it seems to us to have decidedly a warmer sympathy with the 
life of the common soldier and also to show a stronger dramatic instinct on 
the part of the author." 

DENVER REPUBLICAN. 

" The quiet picture of garrison life at a frontier army post is skillfully 
drawn as an effective background for the little comedy played by the sev- 
eral characters. . . . With this life Mr. Putnam is not only familiar, he 
is thoroughly in touch with it. and this sympathy has been of assistance in 
giving artistic color to his story. The very air of the army post pervades 
the book." 

INDIANAPOLIS NEWS. 

"Mr. Putnam is more of a philosopher than Captain King, who has 
written so often of the regular army and its lights and shadows, and he 
approaches his story telling with a decided purpose. The pictures which 
he gives of the post of the Old Regiment are vivid, and one gets a capital 
idea of the routine of garrison life." 

DETROIT FREE PRESS. 

" An army novel and one of the best it has been our good fortune to see 
for many a day. The style is good, the story interesting from the start, 
and the picture of life in camp and at an army post photographic in its 
accuracy. The plot is a double one, or .rather there are two stories, tlie 
threads of which run side by side interweaving here and there in a way 
that is always attractive and sometimes very pathetic." 

NEW YORK COMMERCIAL ADVERTISER. 

"An entertaining tale, with an underlying vein of serious thought on 
matters of some moment as connected with the details of army manage- 
ment." 



CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS, Publishers, 
743 and 745 Broadway, New York City. 



RARE BOOK 
COLLECTION 




THE LIBRARY OF THE 

UNIVERSITY OF 

NORTH CAROLINA 

AT 

CHAPEL HILL 

Wilmer 
891